Radiation Completed

by Debbie Twomey on December 13, 2017


It has been too long since I last wrote because the neuropathy in my hands has made typing for any length of time an ordeal. But six weeks is a long time and so much can happen that I needed to share.

I was focused on my scars the last time I wrote. I was in a funk that was not easy to rise above because of complications. But as they say, this too shall pass. I will have gallbladder surgery next month and I am still having difficulty with a fissure, stomach issues, fatigue, and neuropathy. That is my reality.

I also went through my 15 rounds of radiation. It was an interesting experience and I know that sometimes the side effects are long term but my hope is it did its job. The hardest part for me was getting the tattoos. You have to lie on the table very still while they mark you for where the radiation will be focused. If I had had the mastectomy it would not have been so difficult— or comical.

They have to mark above and under you breast and get just the right coordinates each and every time (you know like the ones we saw in all those war movies where the bombers need the exact coordinates to destroy the enemy). Well as most of you know I am very large breasted. That was hard enough but the boobs seem to have a mind of their own and move quite randomly. So getting those marks just right was a trial. You have to put your arms above your head and hold onto a grabber while they work. Well these arms could go up slowly but because of my Rheumatoid Arthritis; getting them down could be painful. They would lock and snap so it was something that needed to be done slowly and carefully.

The technicians had a grand old time measuring this girl. What should have taken about 30 minutes ended up almost 90. They finally got all the tattoos set and I was good to go for my first round of radiation the next week. I will say this much, the staff at Upstate Oncology in Syracuse was not only very patient, they were extremely kind and caring. I wish I could remember my one-liners (with chemo fog I remember so little these days) but I had them all in stitches while they worked. I told them preparing someone my size is a challenge and one of them should do a write up for future techs so they know how to do it efficiently.

I had my radiation treatments at Oswego Radiation Oncology and it was a very pleasant experience. The staff was very caring but you know, I don’t even remember one of their names. How did that happen? I usually pay attention to things like that but I did not this time. I have no reason either. Maybe it was because you are so vulnerable on that table, and it only lasts about 10 minutes. I am not sure why, but it is really not like me at all. As I write I can only remember the receptionist and PA’s names. Darn! 






I had minimal side effects thank you God. My breast got a bit red, slightly pinched skin getting tighter and one MRSA outbreak that was very small and went away quickly. Dr. Banashkevich was excellent and addressed all my concerns about my skin infections and what protocol was best for me. He followed up promptly and it all went better than I expected.

I may worry a bit about what could happen in the future but for now I feel good about this line of defense against my Invasive Ductile Carcinoma (IDC). I would be remiss if I did not understand the possibilities so I will share that information too.

Kinds of side effects you may experience over the course of your radiation treatment:

There may also be long term effects including secondary cancer at the radiation site but that is only 8% of patients (prayers here).

Changes to the skin

Long term changes to the breast-edema or lymphedema

Restricted arm and shoulder movement

Risk to heart muscle especially is left breast radiated

Possible lung problems


  • Fatigue
  • Sluggishness
  • Increased sensitivity to cold
  • Constipation
  • Pale, dry skin
  • A puffy face
  • Hoarse voice
  • An elevated blood cholesterol level
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness
  • Pain, stiffness or swelling in your joints
  • Muscle weakness
  • Heavier than normal menstrual periods
  • Brittle fingernails and hair
  • Depression
  • Numbness, pain and weakness in the arm

You learn early on to go through this journey one day at a time. You try not to focus on what could be if it’s negative. But for me, that is simply ridiculous because you must accept the good with the bad or the possibility. In order to accept that the future could mean being cured you must also understand there could be other outcomes. I am no Mary Poppins and I do not see life through rose colored glasses. I get all the information I can handle, I digest it and then I go forward putting each component in a place that I can cope with most capably. I feel good after my radiation and I choose to believe the radiation hit its target. If something comes up in the future I will deal with that then.

I earned this wonderful certificate they give you when you complete your radiation.   

I have 9 more chemotherapy sessions left that will take me through to March of 2018. I am not sure what the next step is but Dr Benjamin will discuss it with me when the time comes. I don’t want to be overanxious but all of these choices are so that I will one day hear the words, “Cancer free.”


LIve Laugh Love



Too Many Battle Scars

by Debbie Twomey on October 21, 2017

Cellulitis scar

I have taken a long break from writing to focus on healing, or at least getting through my chemotherapy. The side effects have taken a physical toll on me which was only exacerbated by my other illnesses. And it has all been very discouraging to me. I miss the physical activity I used to enjoy so much. I feel as though my many battle scars are just hindering me in many ways and it can get overwhelmingly discouraging.

 I would read about other cancer patients, some with much stronger chemo than what I get who were working or out there doing physical activities that I can only dream of.  Yesterday I argued with myself that I could do more physically so I headed to the corner (all of 3 houses). How did I do? Let’s just say if I had had my phone with me I would have called a cab to get back home.

Trust me that I know and understand (and am reminded almost every time I see certain doctors who have to constantly say “You know you are a big girl”, that I am morbidly obese. I know this makes for yet another complication but as I have said ad nauseam, it is a Catch-22. I was big before getting this sick but I was very active. Then the RA worsened the walking diminished and the pounds increased. I was diagnosed with diabetes last year and it turned out that I needed to eat more often (wisely and watching the carbs and sugars of course) and try to increase whatever exercise I was doing at the time. It got so bad that all I could tolerate was water walking till I had a problem with getting to the pool. Now, due to all the complications, exercise is not tolerable. I only managed to lose 35 pounds due to the chemotherapy side effects.

I have such a hard time accepting some things, like the fact that I not only have cancer but heart and lung disease as well as Rheumatoid Arthritis with end stage degeneration in my hip. I keep thinking I can still get around better than I do, till I try. I will hear some pep talk or see something on Facebook that is so inspiring and tell myself I can do that too, but most of the time, I simply can’t.

I never ever thought this is what 62 would look like. 82 maybe and even then I saw myself dancing and going for those walks I liked so much (with my 70’s music blaring in my ear). I never dreamed I would need a scooter just to get groceries and if an establishment does not have a scooter, like the zoo or festivals, I have to avoid. This was not what I saw in my future.

Because I could not tolerate the full chemo, I am now only receiving Herceptin every 3 weeks. That is the good news. The bad news is I did not get the full treatment so a positive outcome is reduced. If you read everything on the Internet regarding chemo and any other cancer treatment you also start to wonder did I make the wrong choice here? Did I just make it that my body will now get cancer everywhere else because of the toxins of chemotherapy? Did I fall victim to Big Pharma and make myself sicker? Truthfully I am getting a bit tired of all of this, the not knowing what is best and all the arguments either way. What the hell do I have to look forward to when I begin my rounds of radiation?


Lung biopsy, lympth node removal and marking for radiation

I feel as though I am one giant SCAR. I have so many scars on the outside and then I have the ones on the inside. I have scars from knee surgery, 4 large scars from trying to have a baby and eventually having a total hysterectomy. I have childhood scars from the many times I got stitches because I was a very active tomboy. I have the scars from my lung and liver biopsies, the breast biopsy and eventually the lumpectomy to remove an 18mm mass and removal of lymph nodes. I have the many small and one large scar from the bouts of cellulitis and MRSA. And soon I will have a scar from either removal of gallstones or gall bladder.

My point is I am very physically scarred from these traumas and those are just the ones you can see. Right now the ones that hurt the most are the ones you cannot.  Last week I sat in the surgeon’s office waiting to be told I am too heavy for him to remove my gall bladder and that I would need a bariatric surgeon to perform the operation. My hospital does not even have the proper equipment for a morbidly obese patient like myself. So take that Debbie Twomey.

I sat alone just as I did waiting for my all my biopsy results because I know when it comes to crunch time, I really am alone and to depend on someone does not usually work out. And I have to admit there are times that is a heavier burden, feeling alone. Leaves a different kind of scar.

Fear leaves a scar too. I try not to focus on the worst case scenario but I am a realist and I need to know all the facts to make any major decisions, even if I make the wrong one. So I make my oncologist keep me updated on what could become more complicated because of my serious side effects. And getting gallstones is actually kind of minor right now compared to the outbreak of MRSA which is potentially worse.

My little trek down the street brought my own reality smack dab in my face—you have to accept the limitations and adapt and not compare my illness and recovery to anyone else’s journey. Yes, there are amazing people out there who can do miraculous feats even while dealing with cancer or chemo. Yes, there are those who still work, or go for walks or carry on as if nothing is different. There are even those who forego painkillers even when they are in agony so that they are lucid. But they are not me. They do not have my scars or my complications.            

I have one goal and that is to survive and get some quality back to my life so that I can spend more time with my precious granddaughters, and my family and friends. I don’t want those that know me saying goodbye just yet. I want to take my McKenna and Leah to the zoo and to festivals and so much more including Disney World if that is possible. So I am doing what I have to without overdoing it or making any more scars than I already have.  Who doesn’t have their share of scars and hope for better?   


Live, Laugh Love



Cancer’s Parables

August 29, 2017

Tweet   I said when I started this journey that I would be as honest as I could, even if it meant some gory details. I don’t believe a warrior always puts on a happy face because that is just unrealistic and for others to truly understand just what this feels like, I think they […]

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I Made it to the Couch Today

July 15, 2017

Tweet   I was hoping to be writing a positive or funny blog this week but just getting this one written has taken me 2 weeks. I was so excited to be off the “red devil” that I let go of the possibility that I could have other side effects that were just as bad […]

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The Nitty Gritty of Chemotherapy

June 27, 2017

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It’s Just Hair

June 12, 2017

Tweet It’s only hair—you know who says this the most? Those people who are already losing it and have to accept, those who never liked their hair anyways and those who think bald is beautiful which may be mostly males.  I know many women in chemotherapy say this too because they know it is inevitable […]

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The Blessings of Cancer

May 22, 2017

Tweet My last few blogs seemed a bit discouraging so it probably seems hypocritical to say there have been many blessings with this cancer diagnosis, but that is the Catch-22 of this awful disease. I am not trying to garner pity but put a very realistic face to a disease that we had hoped would […]

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A Day in the Life

May 13, 2017

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Insurance Impediments!!!

May 5, 2017

Tweet What the hell— my insurance company has high jacked my chemotherapy treatment! I am so livid that I do not even know how to begin this blog. My gripe is regarding the insurance companies’ power. It is out of control. In the 1980’s I was part of a group who lobbied in Albany NY […]

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Fuzzy Cancer Brain

April 30, 2017

Tweet Anyone dealing with cancer of any form knows what I am about to write is so very true. We are bombarded with advice, well wishes (please do not take this as a negative because it is so welcome), information, tests, treatments and endless APPOINTMENTS. If we are fortunate we have partners that will help […]

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