The Angry Armpit

I walked into the cancer center yesterday with a mild determination of, “let’s do this.” Really it was more of, “let’s just get this shit done today because I really have somewhere better to be.” I sat down in the waiting room and reveled in the quiet. It was the first quiet moment I’d had since rolling out of bed at 5:45. When the tech called me back I said, “you know what today is?”

Her reply was, “it’s Friday!”

Yes. However the day was so much better than just being Friday. It was Last Bolus Day. The bolus is this brass chainmail looking thing they put over the area of treatment that increases the amount of radiation to the skin and the tissue right underneath it. The result is… not pleasant. I have had 24 rounds of radiation with this thing on my chest and it has cooked my skin to a fine (or not so fine) crisp.

When I last wrote I mentioned that my skin was starting to turn pink, but that things weren’t that bad. Since then the situation has dramatically changed. Shortly after that point my skin started to get raised and quite itchy. After consulting with the doctor we discovered that I was allergic to the calendula cream they gave me. It was causing hives.

Solved that problem.

As the days progressed the skin continued to get angrier and angrier. The pain is odd. It isn’t like the bone pain from chemo or the post surgical pain from the mastectomy. Imagine a toothache, a sliver in your foot and an itch that is impossible to scratch happening all at the same time and you can’t do anything about them. It is the type of pain or sensation rather that causes your brain to function at the speed of when you have to pee really bad.

In other words, I have no attention to detail at the moment. That is bad for the teacher who was organizing the Winter Plant Sale. Not only was yesterday Friday and Last Bolus Day, it was Plant Sale Day.

Hundreds of people came through my classroom and greenhouses. I had to manage all of my students all at once, maintain composure, remember to go to radiation on time and remember to eat lunch. The fact that all of that happened and we made money is nothing short of a miracle.

I sucked it up. I smiled and joked with students. I chatted with parents and staff. I did my best to have fun. All the while my armpit looked like this.

I got home and took my shirt off to reveal that the white/black looking area had opened up and was starting to peel. It was that moment that I’d had it. I know I only have 4 more treatments to go. The last treatments with no bolus will help my skin. However, in the past 9 1/2 months I’ve been diagnosed with cancer, had my boobs cut off, been pumped full of chemicals and had 1/2 of my chest burned to a crisp. There is only so much a body can take.

I’d like to think I can celebrate the milestone of being finished with active treatment on Thursday. It will be a momentous day. Then I’ll start passive treatment. 5 years of aromatase inhibitor drugs. I need to have my right expander re-inflated. I need reconstruction on my whole chest that will involve a 10 hour surgery, 5 days in the hospital and 8 weeks of recovery. I’ll need revision surgeries. I have more of this. Thursday is not the end. I’ve still a long road ahead.

and my GD armpit hurts.

3 Comment

  1. Mom says: Reply

    Tears for you honey. Love you so much and can’t wait till this is behind you. Rose colored glasses are hard to wear right now, but you’ll have your bling on again and it won’t be this. Forage on baby, you got this!

  2. Gaye says: Reply

    Oh L, that looks so painful and SUCKS! You can do it!!!

  3. Kate says: Reply

    I wonder if you will stop grow hair in that armpit after this. Orrrrr!! Maybe it will grow back freakishly thick. Either way would be interesting. I love you.

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