Friday, October 4, 2013


I have learned over the past few years of dealing with cancer that when something scares me, instead of  turning my mind off and not thinking about it, I do the opposite.   Some may call it hyperfocusing.  I like to call it an effective coping mechanism:)  So with radiation looming in the near future, it was time to finalize a plan.  My week went like this:  meet with radiation oncologist, have a little freak-out, bury myself in 'research', come to terms with my treatment plan.  Phew.  Exhausting!

Without boring you with details, it all comes down to this:  Benefit versus risk.  The benefit of treating cancer aggressively is that hopefully it will never, ever come back (although there are no guarantees).  The risk of more aggressive radiation treatment is radiation exposure to my lungs and possibly my heart, not to mention the 'other' things it does to your body.  Lung fibrosis and heart damage are not side-effects that an athlete, or anyone for that matter, wants to experience, however neither is another cancer recurrence.  But, it is what it is, and you can bet that I will be doing my damnedest to protect both of these highly valued organs.

First up, I have an appointment with my nutritionist next week.  We will be changing my nutrition/supplement plan to support me through radiation.

Additionally, even though I am pretty sure that there is not any research to support the use of an incentive spirometer and/or powerlung to prevent/reduce lung fibrosis during radiation, that isn't going to stop me from using both!

Incentive spirometer

Speaking of lack of research, I think more research needs to be done on supportive care while undergoing treatment for cancer.  But, that is a topic for another day.....

The icing on the cake this week is that I became the proud bearer of four new tattoos.  As cool as that sounds, these are not sexy nor even bad-ass tattoos, they are to permanently mark my body for radiation fields.  I suppose that is pretty bad-ass; I hope my new tats will make the radiation fields very precise and help avoid all my favorite organs.  

So, radiation starts October 14th.  It is a total of 25-30 treatments, 5-days/week, for a total of 5-6 weeks.  While side effects vary from person to person, by the end of treatment I can expect some pretty significant burns to my breast, underarm, shoulder, and back as well as cumulative fatigue.  Just the thought of going to the hospital 5days/week for 5-6 weeks is exhausting in and of itself.

That said, I hope to make the most of my non-treatment time.  And since the best thing you can do to combat side effects during treatment is exercise,  you can bet I will be out on the bike, hiking, running, and lifting weights as much as I can!

I should be done with treatment just in time for Thanksgiving.  My reward?  My first trip out of town since I started treatment for this recurrence back in July and also my first "vacation" to our condo in St. George.

I can't wait!


  1. Take care of those lungs! Best of luck in radiation. I found doing a super early morning appointment (I did mornings until the first of the day opened up and snagged it) because you could get in and out faster (I hate waiting in waiting rooms). It is a different tired than chemo. Just make the most of that energy you have during the day and exercise as you planned! :)

  2. You do not necessarily get burned. You may not have any side effects at all. I am almost done with fourth week out of six and everything looks good on skin and I have pretty good energy levels (still recovering from chemo though). Use many good natural salves and lotions and be nice to your skin. I have found there is a lot of conflicting information about products, I went renegade and used comfrey, aloe, lanolin, calendula, emu oil, allantoin, tea tree oil, etc. Apply liberally.

    You'll come through beautifully.


    1. Thanks Judy! Glad to hear you're tolerating rads well. I hope for the same, but am prepared with LOADs of yummy lotions too! Mostly worried that I won't tolerate my bike clothes, or that it gets bad enough that I worry about crashing on it. I'm going renegade too:)

    2. If your skin gets bad they tell you to not sweat.
      I've had no problem with synthetic workout clothes/sports bras.

  3. Dear Jen, Even though I never had Cancer, I lived with it from childhood to mid thirties. I sent you the story about my Mom, As far as radiation, That is all my Mom had in 1960 because there was no chemo. On a positive note, it worked for many years. Yes, she had various reoccurrences over the years usually in the same surgical area. She was a survivor. She didn't let it engulf her life. She lived in denial of her Cancer. Samantha and I can't even find the words to say how we feel. To say the usual our prayers are with you, you are in or hearts etc, just isn't enough. STRENGTH, COURAGE, FIGHT IT WITH EVERYTHING YOU HAVE ! YOU CAN DO IT! BEAT THIS BITCH! There, that sounds much better. Get mad at it, really mad. Don't ever feel sorry for yourself because you are going
    to beat it. We are here for you if you want to talk. Sam 845 901 6261 Emily 845 901 8188. We love you along with a BIG HUG! Emily and Sam

    1. Thanks Emily & Sam! I truly appreciate your support!

  4. I will have the radiation starting from mid december (for now I will have 5 more weeks of Taxol!) Where did you hear about using the incentive spirometer? Also, I am having a hard time finding a nutritionist who will give me some non-trivial information!! Even if diet has minimal effect, I want to do my best beating this damn cancer did you find yours?
    Thank you so much for writing in your blog. It's really inspiring!

    1. Maryam, There is no research on the benefit of the power lung and/or incentive spirometer during breast radiation, however theoretically it makes sense that exercising the lungs promotes lung health and reduces fibrosis. Since there is no research that demonstrates benefit, there is no way to know if it will be helpful, but since I know for sure it will cause no harm, I am going for it! As for my Nutritionist. I had a few different people tell me about Dr. Jeanne Wallace and Nutritional Systems. Her nutritional practice is dedicated solely to reviewing the literature of cancer nutrition. Everything that is recommended has some research to support it. She frequently speaks at prestigious integrative medicine conferences and from what I can tell is the best in this specialized field. Her practice just happens to be located in Utah, however since she works with clients all over the country and world, she does not have an office. I have worked with both of her consultants, Patrice and Michelle, and they are both awesome. Our consultations are all via email, telephone, and/or skype. I have been very happy with their services and that is why I keep going back for more. I definitely recommend them!


      PS-I had another consult this week and have a plan in place for supporting radiation. I hope to find time to blog about it this weekend!

  5. Good luck Jen. Let's go pedal when you come down to StG.

  6. What an awesome blog! You are a model of fitness and vitality through the whole deal. Thanks Here's mine: