Your Buddy Russ is Officially Cancer Free!
We are just about at the year mark that all of this started, and now the chapter has come to an end! So what has been going on exactly? Lots of anxiety, depression, and stress in a nutshell. Before I tell you the end of the story, here are the other articles leading you up to the closing of this chapter.
Last we left off, I had just started radiation and chemotherapy. The stories I could tell you about them are hilarious, but we will save those for on-air stories down the road. I can tell you one BIG thing I have learned. That would be that the men and women that take care of these amazing cancer fighters are angels sent from heaven. This was not a walk in the park, it might have been one of the scariest situations I have been in. Top 3 for sure. Somehow, they all knew it and just could talk that scary right out of the door. In just 6 weeks time, I felt that my two radiation techs (Shane and Shane) and my infusion nurses (I called them my Brothel) all felt like family. I hated the fact that I was done with my therapies and may never see them again. Certainly, I hope to never go back to it, but they will still be missed. Also, in this picture below, they're singing me Happy Birthday while one of the nurses is holding pre-meds before chemo. Holding my Benadryl hostage!
Chemo and Radiation took a toll on my body. I lost my mustache and had two baseball-sized bald spots on the back of my head. My sodium levels dropped through the floor and I am now anemic. During chemo, you might have seen me walking with a cane. Sometimes Chemo causes neuropathy in the feet, it caused it in my knees. It literally felt like I had no knees for 6 weeks. Insane. Another concern with Chemo is loss of appetite. That was not the case for me! I would eat 7 times a day, minimum. These weren't snacks. These were full-grown man meals. Leaving chemo on Mondays, a Whataburger trip always happened. 2 double cheeseburgers, a large fry, a chicken strip sandwich, and a drink. I'd eat it all. By the time we would get back into Lake Charles, I would get a pizza and eat that entire thing when I got home! Your whole body just feels off and sick, but there's nothing you can do or take to make it feel better. "Normal" is never a feeling you will experience during this.
Radiation, I mentioned, made it feel like the inside of my brain was sweating. As the weeks drug on, I kept a sunburn on my face from it. The mustache started to fall out, and I started to have this weird anti-freeze taste in my mouth. Luckily, that has since cleared up and the mustache is making its way back. It feels like high school all over again going through puberty! So how do I feel now?
Overall, I have good days and bad days. Being anemic makes me sluggish and tired, but I am on iron supplements and those do seem to be working. I am back to working side jobs again and going out to events with Mike as much as possible. It wears on me quicker than it used to, but I've never been one to not push myself way too far. So my body will just have to step up and take it! The biggest issue I am having now is what is called "chemo brain".
Chemo brain is a common term used by cancer survivors to describe thinking and memory problems that can occur during and after cancer treatment. Chemo brain can also be called chemo fog, cancer-related cognitive impairment or cognitive dysfunction. - Mayo Clinic
I really giggle at the cognitive dysfunction term, it feels about right. For someone that uses their brain to think steps ahead on the radio, and uses words like a paintbrush, this has been a rough part to deal with. I literally forget words, phrases, names, and more. I find that it's just short-term-type things. Tell me one thing now, and in a few minutes, I won't be able to tell you what you said. A few times recently, I have remembered doing things but apparently never did them at all! I DJed an event last week and had to keep singing the songs in my head because I couldn't remember the name of the song! This coming from someone who has been DJing for over 20 years. I do find that taking B12 helps my brain work a bit more efficiently. Most people say that it will get better within a year after chemo, others say that you just have days that are really good and days that remind you of the first days after chemo. Guess we will see. If you see me out and about and I look confused, we will just blame the Chemo Brain. On to the results, it's a story in itself!
Yesterday, July 6, 2022, was the day to get my head checked again. It was to see if the chemo and radiation worked. That means, MRI time. From my previous experiences with an MRI machine, it's horrid. I just don't fit. The technicians, of course, are amazing. The machine is just loud, uncomfortable, and a tight fit. If an MRI machine could be called a "schmedium" that's what it would be for me when they stuff me in there. It takes almost an hour to get all of their "pictures". The plan was to do the MRI, go eat and hang around Baton Rouge and then have my follow-up appointment after lunch to read the results of the MRI. That, of course with my luck, is not how any of it went.
The hospital had recently been "hacked" and their entire network had been down for over a week. This meant the images they had on file for my previous "cancer" MRI could not be accessed. This also meant that they couldn't compare the cancer MRI to the newest images. This is not a big surprise for me, I expected something to go wrong. It's literally been my luck for this whole experience. I talked to my nurse practitioner and she said my Oncologist was going to sit with the MRI guy and see if they could figure it out. My phone rings.
Mr. Conrad, you won't believe this, but we have your results. The preliminary findings are that you no longer have cancer. It's gone!
Dear Reader, I told you in our first story that there are 3 words that can chill you to the bone. Those are "you have cancer". There are 4 that will make you question reality after you go through it, "you don't have cancer".
Before I celebrated, I made that poor girl define "preliminary" to me.
Well, we have to call it preliminary because it's a handwritten report on this sticky note.
Yes, my cancer diagnosis of being all-clear was hand-written on a sticky note! Welcome to my life. She assured me that without a doubt I no longer have cancer. Here come the tears, relief, and happiness. For the first time in months, I felt relief and happiness. Now, mind you, Dad is driving and I have the nurse on speaker phone. As I am fighting back the tears of a teenager that got stood up on prom night, I hear the tires of the truck hit the side of the interstate. "Wurrrrrrrrrrrrr". I look over at dad and he's wiping his eyes.
Don't kill us, Dad, I just got done with cancer. I'd like to live at least another day
I got home and took the greatest nap I have ever taken. I had the best sleep I have had since my surgeries last night. The emotions I am still experiencing are very overwhelming, but they are all good.
I cannot thank each and every person that stopped me to tell me they were praying. Every person that supported me and helped me. Every person that just made cancer jokes with me. This is a dumb disease. My journey was short, I know. There are people fighting this day in and day out who have been for years or have years to keep fighting. It's exhausting, even the little bit I had to deal with it. If someone you know is fighting this dumb disease, just be there for them. They know they have cancer, it's ok to talk about it. It's ok to make stupid jokes about it. Make them laugh, remind them they aren't alone. Trust me, you feel totally alone with this. I love each and every person that helped me, texted me, and checked on me. I work for an amazing company that understood the fight and they let me focus on getting better rather than "when are you coming back to work". I am so grateful for that as well.
If you or someone you know is going through this dumb disease, this is me telling you to reach out to me if you need advice. Lord knows if I can't give it, I will help find someone that can. Keep your head up, and thanks for coming along for this ride!
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