Radioactive.

I’m beginning to see why everyone who has gone before me says that radiation makes you tired. It isn’t so much about the treatments themselves; it’s about getting up and out of the house every day to go have the treatment. This week was a killer. Not only did I have to be at the cancer center at 8:45 each day to check in, but I also had appointments with both my regular oncologist and my radiation oncologist, an appointment for lab work, an appointment for Herceptin and Perjeta infusion, and a short check-in with my psychiatrist just to see how I was doing. I told him, “I’m tired, but I’m okay. I’m alive!”

Before starting this phase of treatment, I stocked up on creams. They tell you it’s the most important part to try and prevent burned skin. Calendula (basically marigolds), which is related to ragweed, is in most of them. After 36 hours from the first time I used it, my eyes swelled up, my sinuses clogged, and I was having asthma attacks. My skin itched. I read up on the cream and promptly tossed it out. My second line of defense is Aquaphor. I’m not tolerating that much better. It also makes me itch (maybe because it has lanolin in it and I’m allergic to wool), but not as much. My final remedy, should I begin to burn, is pure aloe vera gel. I have a 16-oz. bottle of it on my dresser. Amazon has gotten rich off of all the products I’ve bought while going through treatment. Not only have I stocked up on the potions for radiation, but I also bought every book I could find about breast cancer, a mesh drain bag to wear in the shower post-surgery, and soft exercise bras to wear over my sensitive skin. No lace, thank you very much!

I also have scarves, which I never figured out how to wear, knit hats, which came in handy when I was really cold after chemo, and baseball caps, which were my go-to head covers. I bought a very expensive human hair wig that I wore to work exactly once. I wore it on some other Zoom calls when I didn’t want to feel exposed (and when I was told that ball caps were not appropriate). In essence, I have a lot of stuff I’ll be donating. I did buy myself a very cool-looking compression sleeve for my right arm, since I had 7 lymph nodes removed. It looks like a big tattoo, which I think is very rockin’!

Every day I say aloud to God or whomever is listening to me, “I’m so grateful!” I’m grateful to be alive, to be fighting, and to be nearer to the end of treatment. It has been exhausting trying to keep up with all the appointments and side effects (and it puts the lotion on the skin!) and still keep a job and a roof over my head. My nurse unhooked me from the IV on Thursday and said, “Go home and have a nice nap!” I shook my head. “I’m going to work.” I’m grateful to have a job, and I have worked very hard during this time. Maybe I want to prove something to myself. That I’m tough? That I can handle this? Or maybe I just knew I had to do it or be out on the street. If ya don’t pay the bills, you don’t get to live indoors.

Today I’m having a day off. It’s Saturday and my son is at his dad’s house, loving on the new puppy there. (I swear, that kid is the animal whisperer.) It’s after 2:00 in the afternoon, and I’ve not done a thing worth mentioning except take care of the animals here. I’m still in my PJs and have been parked in front of movies most of the day. I started to scold myself for being so lazy, and then I thought, “What else do I really need to do right now?” Whereas last weekend I had a lot of energy, this weekend I’m a little tired. I think I’ve earned it. There was a lot I needed to do this week that I never got around to doing (like calling for a pickup of these donations I bagged and boxed up), but I’m just going to have to make myself a to-do list and stick to it when the week rolls around again. There are some places I need to call that are not open on nights or weekends.

Why is it that self-care is so hard for us Americans? Why do we feel the need to chide ourselves if we don’t accomplish amazing things in our off-time? Oh, I have plenty of stuff I could be doing, but I’m cutting myself a break. Between pandemic-brain and cancer-brain, it takes real impetus to get me moving on a Saturday. There had better be a damned good reason I’m running around madly! It’s cold out today, anyway. Tomorrow will be a nicer day to sweep the porch, to walk the dog, and to do a little housekeeping.

I hope you’re having a beautiful weekend and taking care of you!

Peace, J

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