On Friday, May 25, I completed my radiation treatment and am now done with ALL of my cancer treatment! This was just in time to have a fun filled Memorial Day weekend and then return to work on May 29. I’m now back to a ‘normal’ life as a mom of two! That’s also why this blog post comes so late.
I had 17 rounds of radiation during May. Going through radiation for me was much easier than chemo. A lot of people have asked me what radiation feels like. It doesn’t feel like anything. It’s like an X-ray; you just lay there. Over time, the radiation does start to wear on your body. My radiation dosage was very low in comparison to other cancers, so I got very minor redness on my skin towards the end. It wouldn’t even be noticeable unless I pointed it out to you. I know some people who get bad burns, almost like sunburns, because the radiation dosage is much higher for them. I have to wear a custom molded face mask to keep my face still and chin lifted during radiation. I got to keep it as a souvenir. I’m not sure what to do with it. Run over it with a car? Paint it? Mount it over my fireplace?
One of the side effects I did have from radiation was my esophagus feeling scratchy. About a week into my radiation treatment, I got a cold and had a lot of congestion. Oddly, the congestion lined my throat and I no longer felt the scratchy throat feeling. So in a way, getting sick kind of helped me. Also since my esophagus was getting worn from the radiation, it made it a little harder to swallow certain foods. It felt like food got stuck in my throat and I’d have to drink water to push it down.
Every weekday, I went to radiation. What’s interesting about radiation is you see the same faces waiting in the waiting room everyday since they’re going through their treatment too. I got to talk to more cancer patients and hear their stories. What amazed me the most was that I would be the only person from Houston in the waiting room. Everyone else was from another city or state and came to Houston just for treatment. Some would drive hours everyday for treatment. Some temporarily relocated to Houston and were away from their families. I’m so fortunate to live in Houston and have the #1 cancer center nearby. MD Anderson is amazing; everyone is very professional and knows their stuff!
And after my 17th treatment, I finally got to ring the bell to signify the end of my radiation treatment and ALL of my cancer treatments! When I rang the bell after chemo, I was embarrassed to cry in front of others. I hate people seeing me cry. But this time I didn’t hold back. I cried even during the radiation treatment because I knew it was all about to be over!
A Warm Welcome Back
Admittedly, I was very nervous about returning to work. Would people treat me differently? Would people recognize me since I wear a scarf on my head now? Would I be drawing attention to myself because I wear a scarf or hat on my head? Since I got diagnosed, I started working remotely. I worked up until Joel’s delivery and then went on maternity leave, so my coworkers haven’t seen me in 6 months!
I got such a warm welcome when I returned to work. Everyone was so happy to see me and greeted me with big hugs and smiles. My team hosted a welcome back breakfast for me and invited other coworkers so everyone could see me during that time. I received several sweet cards. There were fajitas and cake for lunch. It felt good to finally get back to ‘normal’ life.
What About Whole30?
In my last blog post, I wrote about how I did Whole30 as one of my lifestyle changes post cancer. I’ve started reintroducing food groups and observed how they make me feel. I don’t feel too different after eating soy, rice, corn, or peanut products, so I’ll continue eating those in moderation. I was never lactose intolerant before, but dairy is rough on my digestive system now! This is probably because I didn’t eat any dairy for 6 weeks. Gluten makes me very bloated and sleepy. Refined sugar makes me sleepy after it wears off. Overall, I’m avoiding dairy, gluten, and refined sugar as much as I can. So no cake for me.
The New Normal
As I transitioned back to ‘normal’ life, I started to wonder what that would be like after cancer. Would I still relate to my friends? Would I constantly be afraid of the cancer reoccurring? How is life going to be after going through a significant life experience? Or would things go back to being the same as they were before?
Life isn’t the same after cancer. To be honest, I still don’t know how it’ll be, or how I’ll be. It’s too early to tell. I’m alive and healthy now. I have a healthy baby boy that’s now starting to smile and coo at me, pooping on me, and waking me up at 4am. I have a toddler I’m trying to convince that she needs to use the potty, dragging out of Chick-Fil-A because it’s time to go home, and repeatedly watching Disney parades on YouTube. I’m planning a family trip. I can cuddle with my husband. I can share food with my family. It doesn’t sound that exciting, but this is my new life and it’s wonderful.