Family Reunions and Tattoos

Since I didn’t have to start radiation until Monday, I decided to head up north to spend some time with my family. I had a trip planned already before I knew I would have to do radiation. Luckily, I booked with Southwest, so rearranging my dates wasn’t much of an issue. On Wednesday, my sister and I flew out from Atlanta to Baltimore. We had dinner and did some Pokemon hunting by the inner harbor. The next day we headed up to New York after breakfast.

Our first stop was my aunt’s house in Yonkers. My mom had filled my luggage with clothes for my grandma so I wanted to make sure I got rid of that as soon as possible. Luckily, my cousins were also there watching two of the kiddos, Leo and Avery, and my aunt was already home from work. My grandma is home all day, of course. My uncle is retired too. So it was already a full house. Three more of my cousins came over as they got off of work and we had a nice family dinner, while watching the boys.

The rest of the week and weekend was spent in Nanuet at my uncle’s house where my other cousins were visiting from San Francisco with their baby girl, Lyra. We hung around town on Friday and prepared for the family festivities on Saturday.

Lyra’s first birthday party was on Saturday and everyone came over to the house. There were so many babies! We had so much food too! My cousin, Vicky, and her fiancee, Ryan, also announced that they are having a baby girl due in January. It’s also my cousin, Victor’s, birthday next week. So, we had two ice cream cakes for him and Lyra. The steroids I’m on make me so hungry all the time so I ate everything… twice. Even after the barbecue, the kids wanted pizza. So we also ordered Pizza Hut… and White Castle. We always get White Castle when my cousin, Trang, comes up from Philly. It was crazy. And I ate everything. It was great.

I also got to talk to my cousin-in-law’s dad about his Myeloma. He’s already beat it once but he’s starting to get back pain just like I did. So we had a lot to talk about. It’s nice talking to other survivors who have similar experiences. He also had to do a stem cell transplant and I got to ask him what radiation was like. Please keep him in your thoughts as he goes through all the testing and processes to figure out what’s going on with his back pain and elevated blood counts. He’s been a survivor for so long and we need to keep it that way!

Since I had so much space in my luggage without all of my grandma’s clothes, I was also able to bring home a lot of food. I brought back 10 bagels for myself from my favorite place in the world, the Rockland Bakery. Best bagels ever! Sorry, Nyack Hot Bagels. I wish I could have brought home more. Ugh and so cheap. My mom also made me haul home 15 frozen baos for her. I got searched at security because of those. I also had 2 dozen of my aunt’s almond cookies that she always makes for me. So good!

Visiting Grandpa and Cau Dung.

Visiting Grandpa and Cau Dung.

Pictures with Grandma before leaving.

Pictures with Grandma before leaving.

I love going home. I love being in a loud, crowded house full of food and laughing babies. Family really is the best medicine. I wish I lived closer to them all the time. But, I know I’m pretty lucky to have such a big, supportive family. Even though they’re all across the country, they’re the best support system I could ever ask for. I can’t wait to go back.

Group picture. Still missing some.

Group picture. Still missing some.

I started radiation on Monday (yesterday). It’s… scary. I think it’s worse for me because of my fear of robots. Everyone at the cancer center is really nice though. I’m definitely the youngest patient there. But, everything runs very efficiently and I’m in and out in no time at all. Yesterday, my appointment took about 30 minutes, which is considered long, because they had to take some more scans and adjust the lasers and stuff.

When I get into the treatment room, they have my leg mold on the table. I just nestle myself into the mold and lay down on the table. Today, I didn’t even have to change into a gown so that cut down on some time too. They line you up with where they’ve marked your body for your treatment area. The first day, they marked me up and took pictures. This is so they know exactly how to set you up when you come in if there are different nurses and radiologists working.

Once they leave the room, the machine starts up. It’s so scary. Also, the room is dark so that doesn’t help. You just see these green lasers. But, those are the ones to align you. You don’t see the actual radiation beams. The machine is huge and it rotates around your body so you don’t actually have to move. It’ll zap me from the top. You know when they’re zapping you because it makes that loud, buzzing noise like when someone buzzes you into an apartment. Then, the arm rotates around and does my right side. Then, it rotates around again and zaps me from my left side. It’s so creepy. But, that’s it. It lasts like a whole ten minutes.

They said since I’m being radiated around my stomach, I’ll have some nausea and more frequent bowel movements. I have to go every day for 10 days, not including weekends. Since it’s a relatively short treatment, I shouldn’t get those radiation burns or skin irritations like other people do with longer treatments.

The treatment area on my abdomen.

The treatment area on my abdomen.

Left side mark ups.

Left side mark ups.

Right side mark ups.

Right side mark ups.

I also got my first tattoo! Not what you think. Once they find the treatment area and where the radiation beams have to go, they tattoo you in those spots so they don’t have to mark you every time. After my first treatment, I got five tattoos. They’re just little dots. I have three on my abdomen and one on each side. I always thought about getting a tattoo. I guess at least these have meaning to them now. Maybe I can make them into flowers when I’m done. But, even just the dots hurt, so I don’t think I could do it.

Tiny dot tattoos. I have two more on the sides too.

Tiny dot tattoos. I have two more on the sides too.

My radiation oncologist said I wouldn’t start feeling the side effects until next week. Right now, I just feel really tired after treatment. Who knew that getting zapped with lasers could make you so sleepy? But, I’m trying to power through because I have a lot to do before I start my new job on September 16. Yay!

I’d also like to give a shout out here to Jason, Amanda, Andrea, and Tricia for giving me rave recommendations for my job interview. You guys are awesome and I couldn’t have done it without you! I’m so lucky to have such supportive friends, managers, and supervisors who really care about where I end up. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I'm moving!

I’m moving! Holla if you want to send me stuff.

I also have a double treatment day this week on Thursday. I have chemo in the morning and radiation in the afternoon. Sounds crazy. We’ll see how that goes.

One last thing. I’ve agreed to be a story teller at this year’s LLS Atlanta Light the Night Walk on October 8th! This is the largest crowd I’ve spoken in front of since my high school graduation. They’re expecting 10,000 people and I hope to see all of your lovely faces in the crowd! You can donate to my fundraising page here. You can join me and my Remedy for Remedi team on the walk by registering here. I’ll be unveiling a new team shirt design by the lovely Crystal Petersen at the beginning of the month, so be on the lookout for that so you can order yours and represent from wherever you are!

It’s been a crazy few days. It’ll probably be crazy for a while. Let’s do this!

~SL

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