I was disappointed with myself. I had not expected to lose my nerve when I saw the radiation doctor. I really wanted to be a strong, empowered woman that knows her own destiny.
I’m doing the best I can.
The further I got away from that doctor’s office the stronger I became. I regained control of my energy and began to breathe again.
I will NOT do radiation.
I still know in my heart that it is the right decision for me. And as much as I don’t like having to make all these hard decisions I know that no one else can make them but me.
I’m not scared of dying….but I am scared of making poor choices.
I know this is a good choice.
I will NOT do radiation.
When we arrive home from the doctor’s office I am spent, emotionally and physically. I climb in my nest with an ice pack and vow to be gentle with myself. I replay the doctor’s visit in my mind, trying to relive it without the fear.
I discovered something magickal in that retrospective.
I recognized just how strong and empowered I had been during this journey.
In my life I have struggled with depression more than I would like to admit, but since the diagnosis my mood has actually been more positive. I’ve concentrated on breathing and practiced mindfulness and gratitude daily.
I’ve been vulnerable and asked for help. But through it all there has been a sense of grace and ease even amidst the discomfort.
Mentally I try to prepare for my follow up appointment the next day with my surgeon. The last time I saw her she told me that no one was going to want to let me out of radiation. She had been right about that.
Fortunately I didn’t feel like it was up to them to let me out of radiation, rather it was up to me to opt into radiation….and that wasn’t going to happen.
My appointment was the next morning and her nurse greeted me with a smile and an inquiry as to how I was feeling. “Sore”, I replied. She asked if it was the incision for the lymph node that was giving me trouble and when I said yes she told me that most women reported that as being more sore than the breast.
Yeah I would agree with that.
She showed us to an exam room where I was told to change. I actually get a kick out of the outfit they give me to wear in my surgeon’s office. Instead of the traditional paper half shirt that always gaps open letting in a draft, this “shirt” is actually a big circle of soft fabric with a cutout in the middle that your head goes through. No front, no back, no draft.
By now I’ve been here enough times to realize that they come in different colors, today it is a floral pattern with orange trim. Trying to be helpful my husband attempts to help me put it on. He struggles to unfold it, saying that his fingers are too big. But as I watch I can see he his hands are shaking ever so slightly.
I feel the love in my heart as he triumphs over the uncooperative fabric and gently settles it over my head, taking extra care not to bump my left side.
The doctor arrives with a smile and hands me my copy of the pathology report. That’s one of the reasons I like her, she knows how I am. We go over the same information that she had given me on the phone.
The margins and the lymph node are all clear.
I certainly don’t mind hearing that again.
We talked about how crazy it was to have 3 surgeries and the relief that we both felt at getting a clear outcome. Then she asked the question I was dreading.
“When do you start radiation?” she asked.
“I’m not doing radiation”, I responded.
She only slightly raised an eyebrow and asked me when I would see the radiation doctor. I told her I was there yesterday but I didn’t elaborate on how I had lost my nerve.
This was a time for reclaiming my power.
I felt stronger today and as she made a case for radiation I was ready. She gave me statistics and I gave her my feelings. She talked about recurrence and I talked about side effects.
She couldn’t convince me.
When she was comfortable that I had made my decision wisely she asked if I was going to see the oncologist. Yes I have an appointment in a couple weeks I assured her.
Because I had been proactive and seen the oncologist before starting any treatment I already knew that I am not a candidate for chemotherapy. Even if I had been a candidate that would have been another no thank you, I’ll pass.
What I did know was that tests indicated that my DCIS was 98% estrogen receptive and I am post menopausal. The recommended treatment is a hormone therapy that lowers my estrogen levels.
I feel okay with that.
She seems relieved and points out that even if I decide not to do radiation I will still be doing something preventative with the hormone therapy. My husband chimes in that the hormone therapy will be preventative for both my breasts where radiation would only be for one.
That is not all I will be doing that is preventative I tell her. I have been incorporating a holistic approach from the very beginning and that will never stop.
If I don’t have any more questions for her then she will see me again in 6 months.
As she starts out the door she turns back and says she will write me a prescription before I go. Prescription for what I ask. A mammogram.
You are kidding right?
She explains that I can wait up to a month to do whole breast radiation and they will need to do another mammogram before they start so she will go ahead and give me the prescription now so I don’t have to come back and get it.
As she says goodbye and tells me I can get dressed and pick up my prescription from the nurse, I’m keenly aware of the subtle way she has guided me back to radiation.
By the time we reach the car I am laughing hysterically at the very thought of a mammogram. My breast is covered with multiple bruises, steri-strips are still holding my incisions closed, it makes my eyes water to raise my arm and the slightest touch to my nipple sends searing pain deep in my soul.