On Thursday, May 3, I start radiation. I have 17 rounds of radiation which takes place everyday, Monday through Friday. This is the last of my cancer treatment and I should finish on May 25. This is perfect timing because my maternity leave ends then and I go back to work on May 29!
In preparation for radiation, I had several appointments. My radiation oncologist needed to know the health of my lungs and heart, so I had a pulmonary function test and an echocardiogram. I also had another PET scan. My mass has shrunk down from 4.0 x 4.6 cm (in March after four chemo treatments) to 2.9 x 3.2 cm (after all six chemo treatments). It’s crazy to think when I was diagnosed, my mass was 16 cm! And most importantly, the PET scan shows that I continue to be in remission.
My radiation treatment is customized just for me and my body. To do this, the radiation oncology team does a simulation to prepare everything. I have a face mask custom molded to the shape of my face and head and a bean bag-like cushion that’s vacuum sealed to the shape of my upper body. My body has to sit precisely in line for the radiation to hit the right spot (and not hit other spots). To additionally ensure this precision, I had three dots tattooed on me so they know exactly where to line me up. My body has also been marked up with markers and covered with tape to prevent the marks from being rubbed off. So for the next 3 weeks I’m going to walk around with funny looking fake tattoos! I feel kinda gangsta. I’m so ready to be done with cancer treatment that I’ll do anything they tell me to do.
Typically when you get diagnosed with a blood cancer, a bone marrow biopsy is ordered to determine if the cancer has spread to the bone marrow. I never got a bone marrow biopsy because I urgently needed to start chemo immediately due to how aggressive my cancer was. Also the procedure requires you to lay on your stomach and I couldn’t do that because I was pregnant. So after all six chemo treatments, I finally had the bone marrow biopsy. It was negative for cancer cells! The actual biopsy procedure was really painful though, even with lidocaine. They use a needle the size of a meat thermometer and insert it into your bone! I hope I never have to do that again.
Maternity Leave Ending
I’m down to my last month of maternity leave! Even with all my medical appointments, I’ve enjoyed my maternity leave with Joel. Maybe because this time I know what the hell I’m doing and am more relaxed. In actuality, it’s also because I have my mom helping me regularly, I’m getting more sleep (night nanny = amazing), and I’m not breastfeeding. Plus, Joel has been an easy baby. I’m trying to be more productive with my time by exercising, cooking and reading more.
Everything Happens for a Reason
When I got diagnosed, everything happened so fast. I didn’t have time to research oncologists or high risk obstetricians experienced with pregnant cancer patients. They were more or less assigned to me and I had to trust them.
My primary care doctor knew a general oncologist at MD Anderson Sugar Land. I saw that oncologist a few hours after I was diagnosed. Then the general oncologist wanted me to see a lymphoma oncologist at the MD Anderson main campus where there’s an entire lymphoma department. When the lymphoma department scheduler called me, she knew she needed to get me in the next day. She asked if I could come in at 10:30am. As silly as it sounds, I had a prenatal massage scheduled at that time and didn’t want to miss it (I had back pain and needed to relax with everything going on!). I asked if they had an appointment in the afternoon. She said they had an opening at 1pm so I took it. I asked who the doctor was and they gave me the doctor’s name. It turned out that doctor was the oncologist in the lymphoma department that was one of the most experienced with pregnant patients.
When I met with the lymphoma oncologist, she advised me to consider changing obstetricians to one who was experienced with cancer patients. Roberto had tried to Google high risk obstetricians that had experience with cancer patients and could only find two in Houston, but there wasn’t much information. We asked the lymphoma oncologist if she had had one she could recommend. She ended up recommending one of the high risk obstetricians that Roberto found. My lymphoma oncologist contacted the high risk obstetrician so I could be seen by her in time to start chemo right after that. We were able to meet her two days later and I transferred my prenatal care to her.
I bring up these stories because at my recent checkups with both my lymphoma oncologist and my high risk obstetrician, I learned that both will no longer be seeing patients in clinic. Additionally, my lymphoma oncologist is leaving MD Anderson and moving to another city. I was likely one of their last pregnant cancer patients and they both became my doctors almost entirely by chance. I never sought out these two doctors who saved my life and Joel’s life. They came into my life at just the right time.
Things come into our life and happen all for a reason. It seems unexplainable in the beginning, but when the journey’s over it all starts to make sense. I never asked for cancer to rudely disrupt my life and my pregnancy. But perhaps if it didn’t happen when it did, I would have never been saved by my doctors.
I trust the universe to bring the right people and circumstances into my life at the right time.