Wednesday, April 18, 2012

So what is radiation like, exactly?

I didn't know what radiation was like before I started, either.  Now after 7 weeks of treatment I feel like I'm an expert.  Here's how every day since February 28 has been:
Step one: check in at the front desk in the basement of Prentice and scan my barcoded card.
Step two: get called back to change, dress down from the waist up and put on the oh so stylish hospital gown.

Step three: head back to the vault where the machine is and chit chat with the radiation therapists.
This is similar to the radiation machine at Prentice.  It's crazy big.

Step four: verify my name, date of birth, and area of treatment.
Step five: lay down on the plank, put my arms up, get raised up a few feet to where the arm of the machine is, and lay still while the therapists line up the machine.
Step six: lay still while the laser is on, 20 seconds on the left side and 20 seconds on the right side.

Step seven:  get lowered down, get dressed, head home.

It typically took 15 minutes at the hospital and one hour total.  Everyone in the radiation oncology department are total pros and everything is run like a well-oiled machine.  They also could not be more pleasant, and I really got to know them after seeing them day in and day out.  I'll miss chatting with all of the nice people, but I won't miss having to go in every day.  That's radiation in a nutshell!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I'm back!

Well, a lot has happened since I last posted!  Apologies for such a long break (again).  The most important thing that has happened is the arrival of this precious little girl.

Clare Mary Gough was born February 15 at 9:13am, 7 pounds 2 ounces and 19 1/2 inches long.  She was delivered via scheduled induction 3 weeks early and her birth could not have gone more smoothly.  Inductions typically take about 12 hours and often end in a cesarean section, and thankfully my labor took about 8 1/2 hours and was quite pleasant once I got my epidural.  It was absolutely the best experience of my life.  Clare is perfect and healthy, and I am 100% biased, but so beautiful.  We are so blessed.
Hooked up to monitors to measure baby's heartbeat and my contractions.  Last shot of the pregnant belly!

Proud daddy with Clare, just minutes old

My happy little family

Clare's stats

Such a blessing

All ready to go home

She will be 9 weeks old tomorrow and I have no idea where the time has gone.  Though I have plenty of sleep deprived, bleary eyed, overwhelmed moments, I have never been happier and I have loved every second of being with her.  Being Clare's mom is what I was born to do.
Growing so fast!

The other big thing that has happened is the end of radiation -- woohoo!  I started 2 weeks after Clare was born and just finished today.  Compared to chemo, radiation was a breeze.  More than anything it was just inconvenient -- I went to the hospital every day, Monday through Friday.  Though it took less than a minute to actually receive the radiation, it took me about an hour each day, and longer on Tuesdays when I met with Dr. Small.  In the last couple of weeks I've been experiencing the unpleasant burns that come with radiation.  What was characterized as "like a sunburn" when I started is definitely worse than that, and covers my entire left breast and arm pit.  It's not pretty, and has ranged from a sore chafed feeling to what is now a deep, burning itch.  There are a couple of topical medications that would really help that I unfortunately can't use because I'm nursing Clare on the right side and they aren't safe for her.  Still, I would take radiation for 7 weeks over chemo any day.

Now that I'm done with radiation and still have a few weeks left of my maternity leave, I feel like I finally have my life back.  I'm thrilled to have nothing to do all day except hang out with Clare and enjoy every second I have with her before I have to head back to work.

So that's what I've been up to the last few months.  Now that I've caught up with things at home and am starting to get the hang of this whole being a mom thing, I promise to keep the old blog updated.  Believe it or not, I still have plenty to write about even though chemo and radiation are now a thing of the past.  Thanks for reading, and for all of your support and prayers through this whole journey.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Chemo, check

After a sizeable blog hiatus, I am happy to report that I am officially FINISHED with chemo!  I had round 4 last Wednesday and I finally have enough energy again to be ecstatic that I never (knock on wood) have to go through chemo again. 

Having gone through the previous 3 rounds,  thought I had this whole thing figured out and knew exactly what to expect.  I was wrong.  First, round 4 was the worst, by far.  Everything, from our time in the waiting room to getting blood drawn to the IV to the chemo itself went wrong.  It was a completely different experience from the first three, which were as pleasant as chemo can possibly be.  Second, this round completely knocked me on my heiney.  I was really optimistic that since I felt so good after round 3 that this last one would go as smoothly, but again, I was wrong. 

Here are some of the highlights of the ways in which #4 was very different from rounds 1-3.
  1. We spent an extra 1 1/2 to 2 hours waiting with round 4.  Just waiting. 
  2. I didn't get the same lake view room I had in rounds 1-3.  How spoiled am I that I was a little bummed out that I was "stuck" in one of the interior rooms without windows?  I still had it pretty good -- they were apparently pretty busy, so they almost had me out in the general area where about 4 patients share a cubby with recliners.  Again, I'm so spoiled that I liked having my VIP room.
  3. The phlebotomist drew my blood from my elbow rather than my hand and left me with a nasty looking and sore bruise for a good week and a half.  I had the same phlebotomist each time (she is a sweetheart), so I have no idea why I had to get a bruise this time.  I even brought her cookies.
  4. I didn't have the same nurse I've had since the beginning.  I was doing my best to stay positive even though Charlie and I were both a little cranky about how things had been going, but I was actually very upset.  I loved my other nurse.  She did such a good job of making me feel relaxed and comfortable.  I also felt like she listened to me when something didn't feel right. 
  5. The IV went very, very wrong.  As in the nurse "made a mess" (who says that??) and I bled all over, and then wasn't sure if she was in the vein, which she explained is a problem because the chemo drugs can give a person a third degree burn if they leak outside the vein.  She was nice and all, but it didn't exactly instill a lot of confidence in her abilities.  Oh, and she was in the vein -- whew!
  6. After the IV debacle, things went well again until the chemo "push."  My other nurse always asked me to tell her if it hurt, because that is an indication that the drugs were being pushed too fast.  When I told my new nurse that the push hurt, quite a bit, she said that it was because she was trying to do two at once and that, basically, I would have to just live with it.
  7. After I told the nurse that the push hurt, my blood pressure dropped really low and I spent what felt like forever but was probably closer to 15 minutes fighting the urge to pass out.  The nurses finally decided that I should roll over onto my side and I started to feel better after about 10 minutes.  One of the nurses, who used to work in labor and delivery, said that the baby was likely in a position that was pressing on one of the big veins behind the baby.  That's all well and good, but my understanding is that this is only an issue when pregnant women lie on their backs, and I was sitting almost straight up when I started to feel faint.  I am 99% sure it had to do with the way the chemo was administered, but I bit my tongue because I was glad I was feeling better and just wanted to get it over with.  Oh, and my new nurse said that she thought I almost passed out becase a snuck a peek at all of the blood all over my had and the sheets from the IV. 
  8. I had one good day after round 4 (Saturday) when I felt pretty good, and than I felt like I had been run over by a truck until this past Friday.  Even then, I could only make it at the office from 7am to 2pm and I was completely done.  We had a cocktail party last night and I was a little nervous we would have to send out a last minute text cancelling, but I felt pretty good most of the day and even made it till 1am.  Granted my back and feet were killing me by then (I kept meaning to sit down and put my feet up ...), but it was a great time and I'm more than a little proud that Charlie and I could pull it off.
    We went to Lincoln Square for dinner with friends on my one good day.
  10. I felt significanly more "fogginess" this time around.  My short term memory has been seriously impacted, so I'm doing my best to write everything down so things don't fall between the cracks.  
  11. We took zero pictures!  Between the frustrations and drama we completely forgot to document my final trip to the chemo ward.  As silly as it sounds, I'm disappointed I have no pictures from my last day to look back on.  Then again, bleeding and almost passing out don't make for good memories.  I did find pictures from round 3 that I had forgotten about, though.
An awesome card I got from law school friends

Pre-chemo breakfast at the best breakfast place ever

Totally unnecessary, but a shot of Charlie's ridiculous french toast

Thumbs up for chemo being almost done!  And see that blanket?  My sister-in-law AND brother made it!  I have the pictures of my brother hard at work to prove it. 
I'm not ruling out having a few more not so good moments or days in the next couple of weeks until the drugs are out of my system, but I'm cautiously optimistic that the worst is over.

My sweet aunt made me a cancer cape that is signed with messages from the Walker side of my family.

I LOVED this!  Unfortunately I don't have any shots of me wearing it at the hospital :(

Because this ended up being a loooong post, I'm going to call it a day for now.  But keep an eye out for mor posts: losing my hair (finally!), one long "thankful" post, and reflections on my experience to date, to name a few.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thankful for chemo ...

... being almost over!  Three down, just one to go. Very much looking forward to feeling like a normal version of myself again by Christmastime. 

It looks so innocent ...

Aaaand I dripped chili on my shirt during chemo.  Classy.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Thankful for Charlie

Today I am thankful for the best husband who takes me out to breakfast and takes off of work to go to chemo with me. Round 3 today, see you on the other side!

Ever supportive (and addicted to computer games).

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


If you have a Facebook account, you've probably noticed at least one friend updating his or her status with something he or she is thankful for in the month of November.  I really like this idea, especially since I have too many things that I am thankful for for them to be reserved only for the day of Thanksgiving.  Since my cancer journey has really highlighted all of the wonderful people and things I have in my life, it seems all too appropriate that I use my blog to share with you something I am thankful for every day this month.  I may be starting a few days late, but, hey, better late than never!

I am thankful for my firm and my bosses, who are ok with me working from home so that I can try to kick this cold I've been fighting all week.  Not the best time of year to have a compromised immune system, that's for sure!

A little sick day soup

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Baby G = 20 weeks!

I really can't believe that we made it to the official pregnancy halfway point, partially because I was constantly afraid something would go wrong before now and partially because 20 weeks always felt soooo far away.  But we made it and Baby G couldn't be healthier.

Our appointment was at 3:00pm and we fnished up at chemo at about 2:50pm, so we had to get moving pretty quickly.  Luckily my OB's office is literally right around the corner from the cancer center, so we made it right on time, albeit soaking wet from the nutso storm that was raging outside.  Think rain and wind making umbrellas unusable and car doors tough to open.  It certainly made our day that much more memorable.

The appointment kicked off with an extra long ultrasound where the tech measured measured just about anything that could be measured on little Baby G, including arms, legs, head, neck, bladder, heartbeat, etc.  We got to see the little guy or girl squirming around and looking pretty content in there.  It was such an incredible experience to share with Charlie, one that I will never forget.

We then met with Dr. Mulchandani to talk about how everything is going.  She said that Baby's hearbeat is great, everything is where it is supposed to be, and Baby G is even measured at 75-90% on size!  This is extra good news because chemo can lead to smaller babies and low birthweights.  It's very reassuring to know that despite everything that we're both going through, our baby is healthy and growing well.  The final good news Dr. M had for us was that all of my doctors (and I've got a lot of them!) are in agreement that delivering at 37 weeks is the best plan for me and the baby.  Even though it's 3 weeks shy of the full 40 week gestation, it is when the lungs (which are the last major organ to fully mature) are typically fully developed.  I was told by the materal fetal medicine doctors that they would feel comfortable delivering any time after 26 weeks, so to hear that Baby G will very likely spend no time in the NICU was such a relief.  There is still plenty of time between now and then for things to change, but, God willing, Baby G should arrive sometime around Valentine's Day 2012!

The ultrasound tech told us that the next big ultrasound happens at 36 weeks, so it was music to my ears when Dr. M said she wanted to see me for an ultrasound at 24 and 28 weeks to make monitor Baby's growth.  I was sad when I thought I'd have to wait another 4 months before getting see our baby ... I can't wait to see our little baby again, and so soon! 

We've stuck to our guns and still don't know whether Baby G is a boy or a girl.  It seems most people have very strong opinions on this topic, but I haven't regretted for one moment that we've decided to wait until our baby makes his or her appearance to find out whether we've got a his or a her on our hands.  I love the suspense, I love daydreaming about both possibilities, I love the speculation, I love that we can share in the experience that both Charlie's and my parents and grandparents had when they were expecting their kids.  I love it all! 

Finally, I have to say, I felt so much better after the second round of chemo than the first, and I know it was all due to the fact that we had such a great baby appointment.  I wish I could do it this way every time!

Now for the best part: ultrasound pictures for your viewing pleasure!

Ok, not exactly an ultrasound, but how cool is this? 
From my super thoughtful law school powederpuff team.  Thanks, guys!

Little tootsies
Thumb sucking
Profile and little fist

Last but not least, Baby's face ... and chubby litte cheeks! 
Don't you just love him or her already?  I know we do.

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