Have I mentioned that I don’t like waiting? It’s been a while since I’ve shared an update because there has been nothing to share until now! One day this week I posted to Facebook to let everyone know how things were going, and here’s what I said:

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Oh, the waiting is hard.
 
I am so fortunate to be able to take time off work until I have recovered from cancer treatment, but right now we’re in a holding pattern and it could still be another month before radiation actually begins, and as someone who finds so much motivation and value from productivity, sitting at home waiting is not easy.
 
To-do lists are my lifeblood and today *literally* the only item on there is “exercise”. (I am on the treadmill as I write this, so almost time to cross it off.) Believe me, I know there are many people out there who would love to have that to-do list for a day, not least of whom my colleagues in education who are working their butts off from home right now. Pivoting to teaching virtually is so hard that I actually feel guilty that my cancer got me off the hook this time around. (Though I think my fellow educators would still prefer teaching online to cancer.)
 
I spend my days reading a LOT (if anyone follows my blog or social media accounts casually and somehow missed my diagnosis I’m sure they’re wondering how the hell I have time to read and post about so many books) and of course taking care of all the tasks that come along with motherhood. I’ve been able to take the girls to several appointments (which we usually rely on my parents to do when we’re working; I don’t know how families do it when they don’t have that support) and we’re playing a lot of card games in the evenings. Eva received Uno and Monopoly Deal for Christmas, both of which I enjoy – playing cards seems so much easier than the time and energy commitment of pulling out an actual board game.
 
I gave up some of my side projects to focus on my recovery (media appearances, podcast, running the parish Facebook page and my virtual book club, for example) and I really am reevaluating what I want to keep in my life post-cancer-and-COVID, but for now the days are pretty long, especially since I can’t even go to lunch with a friend or head to the movie theatre on the weekend as I used to do. (Don’t suggest Zoom parties – they are almost worse for an introvert than real parties.) And believe me – every inch of my house has been decluttered and organized, multiple times. Every time I open a drawer or closet I give it a scan to see if maybe there isn’t something else that can go!
 
Knowing I have radiation coming up (and I’ve heard a huge range of experiences and side effects) I am holding onto the belief that I am meant to be resting up right now (and that it’s definitely not the time to take on any new commitments) but it’s hard. And since I’ve shared so much positivity with you throughout my story so far I wanted to take a moment to share this too.
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At that point my next phone appointment was still days away, with no date set to get radiation moving.

A couple of hours later, I received a phone call from my medical oncologist letting me know that my Oncotype DX score was back sooner than expected. The score was 10, which is in the low range, indicating a low risk of the cancer recurring. (Yay!) Because of this, chemo was officially off the table and we could forge ahead with radiation. He indicated that he would send a message to my radio oncologist, and less than 10 minutes later I received a call from his secretary booking my radiation planning appointment for yesterday afternoon! I swear some prayers were said when you all saw my Facebook post and they were answered.

 

 

So yesterday I went to Lakeridge Health in Oshawa and met first with my radio oncologist. He filled me in on what to expect, and said the three main side effects of radiation that he sees are skin issues (burning, peeling); twinges of pain or soreness in the area being treated; and fatigue. In fact, he warned me that once radiation starts I should be trying to get to bed an hour earlier than usual! (Those who know me and how early I usually go to bed each night will get a chuckle out of that one.) He also warned me that the side effects can continue for weeks after the treatment ends.

We talked about where I would have my radiation treatments as well. Originally my surgeon thought that the Peterborough treatment unit would still be under construction when it was time for me, and warned me I would likely need to go to Oshawa. I heard the good news a couple of weeks ago, however, that Peterborough had reopened. I put in a call to the doctor and received a message back that yes, I could be treated locally in Peterborough. At yesterday’s appointment he said that when leaving, I should check in with reception for my schedule and ensure that it was in fact booked for PRHC.

I then had my CT, where the technicians got me into the position I will be in for my 20 treatments and lined me up so they would know how to set up the machine each time. It ended with three tiny tattoo dots (yes, they’re permanent) to guarantee keeping everything consistent.

Here’s a photo of the dot on my side, along with an appropriate Friends reference – remember this one? (And thanks to breast cancer survivor Christina for reminding me of this!)

 

 

 

On my way out, I stopped at the desk for my schedule as instructed, and reminded the receptionist that my sessions should be in Peterborough. And then she told me Peterborough was full and I would have to come back to Oshawa for my 20 treatments. Now I am so not the type to push back about things, but this was really important to me, so I did. I asked if the doctor was aware of that, because he had just told me I would be in Peterborough. She and the other receptionist kindly did some digging for me and spoke to the doctor, and came back to say that I could start in Oshawa on February 3, but Peterborough wouldn’t be available until February 9th. While I have been less than patient throughout this process, waiting six days to me is totally worth it in order to cut the drive ( x 20), especially when I may be tired and not feeling well, so I took the deal and start on February 9th!

Another update: when speaking to my medical oncologist this past week, he said he could go ahead and send in my prescription for Tamoxifen, the hormonal drug that blocks the effects of estrogen in the breast tissue. Because my tumour tested positive for estrogen receptors (99% of the cells), we know that it was being fed by the hormone, so taking Tamoxifen for five years is a really important step in my treatment.

I was given the option of starting now or waiting until after radiation. I posed the question to the Facebook support group I belong to, and heard a range of experiences – some who started before radiation, some who waited until after. I figured since my doctor didn’t care, I might as well go ahead and get started, so on Thursday morning I took my first pill. There are a lot of possible side effects for that too, and I’ll update you in the future with more details and how it’s affecting me, but for now I’m just hoping for the best…which has pretty much been my position throughout this journey.

I plan to keep notes throughout my radiation treatments so I can share with you later. I’m also working on a post about different cancer controversies I’ve come across (interesting to a broader audience, not just those going through cancer), a list of gift and gesture ideas for those who want to support someone else (I have been extremely spoiled) and a reading list – as you may know I devour books, and cancer memoirs have been at the top of my pile lately. If there’s anything you want to know more about please don’t hesitate to ask!

On a side note, I also shared a post on Instagram this week about my new pair of earrings and their connection to another breast cancer survivor. You can check it out here – and for more frequent little updates be sure to follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram too!

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Kate Winn (@katethismomloves)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 comments on “My Breast Cancer Story Part 11: Radiation Ready”

  1. Thanks for sharing more of your story!
    So happy your radiation will start soon.
    Keep your faith, stay strong and stay positive.
    Sending positive thoughts, virtual hugs and lots of prayers🙏

    PS no need to reply; post when you can❤️

  2. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in May and had surgery June 10. I have an appointment tomorrow at the Cancer agency tomorrow & hoping to start radiation soon. I’m reading your blogs & it helps yo know what to expect.

    • I’m so sorry to hear about your diagnosis, Joyce, but I am glad my blog posts can be of some help. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions at all, and good luck at your appointment tomorrow!

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