Recovery & Radiation

The month following Emily’s surgery was dedicated to recovery, and I [Miles] can tell you firsthand that it has not been easy.

The pain was constant throughout the first few weeks.  Emily was on considerable medication to dull the pain; however, with this came numerous, progressively worsening side effects.  As a result, Emily bore down and weaned off all pain meds.  But once again there was a consequence.

By removing the masking agent, the physical magnitude of the surgery was felt in full and it was quite overwhelming for her body.  No longer was she walking several miles on the treadmill, a simple walk to the bathroom now required several stops to catch her breath.

Then during the third week, as expected, Emily went through a depression that left her struggling not only physically but also emotionally.  Emily bounced back with an unparalleled spirit and resolve in a few days though.  Looking at her progress on a weekly basis, rather than focusing on the minute progressions each day, Emily was able to see the immense strides she was making in recovery.  She was deservedly proud of herself.

Less than a month post surgery, Emily was accomplishing lung test levels at 65% of her pre-surgery ability.  She was walking around the city and even up flights of stairs.  And while casually sitting around and even moving throughout the hotel, she stopped noticing a difference.  She started to feel normal.  It was no surprise when Emily went to Mount Sinai and was approved by Dr. Flores to start the next phase of treatment: radiation.

Emily is currently undergoing daily radiation.  She is set to receive 28, high dose treatments.  The radiation is not simply targeted to a small focused area but rather is being applied to the entire right vacated chest area with a specific emphasis on the mediastinum.

Valet parking for cancer patients New York style: five blocks from the front door, $10 cash, stacked parking, and Frankie!

Valet parking for cancer patients New York style: five blocks from the front door, $10 cash, stacked parking, and Frankie!

Radiation is necessary due to the alarmingly high rate of lung cancer recurrence.  We were fortunate to remove all visible signs of disease with the lung, lining, diaphragm, and nodes.  Yet, we must operate under the assumption that cancer may still be present at microscopic levels, especially since that the pathology report indicated lymphatic involvement (small amount of cancer in one node).  Since Emily has had her lung removed, she is able to receive radiation to a significantly large area and with that hopefully eradicate all microscopic cancer cells in her body.

A plaster cast was made to fit Emily’s upper torso to hold her in place during radiation.

A plaster cast was made to fit Emily’s upper torso to hold her in place during radiation.

Each day, we drive into New York City and Emily spends an hour receiving treatment.  She has been fitted for a custom body mold that she lays in, which helps – along with the four dot tattoos now on her chest – ensure she is in the exact same spot each session.  The actual radiation itself only last four to five minutes with a robotic machine moving around blasting invisible rays into her body.  The treatment experience is not bad, but the side effects have proven otherwise.

Tiny permanent tattoos on Emily’s body are aligned with markers on her cast for precise and accurate delivery of radiation. Emily’s radiation tech, Peter, described possible side effects of the permanent tattoos, “You may feel an overwhelming desire to drive a Harley.”

Tiny permanent tattoos on Emily’s body are aligned with markers on her cast for precise and accurate delivery of radiation. Emily’s radiation tech, Peter, described possible side effects of the permanent tattoos, “You may feel an overwhelming desire to drive a Harley.”

As a result of the high radiation dosage, Emily has had a difficult few weeks.  Within 45 minutes of her first treatment, Emily began vomiting.  The nausea worsened over the next few days (she continued to receive treatment) and she was unable to keep down any foods or liquids.  Fortunately, with new medication, Emily was able to temper the nausea (although vomiting is still a daily occurrence).  And thanks to Aunt Grace who is providing daily meals of Chicken Pot Pies, Quiches, Pastas, etc., Emily was able to gain 0.5 lbs last week.  This surprised and pleased the doctors (although I don’t know how pleased my doctor will be seeing that I gained 13 lbs).


Emily and Miles track her progress through the 28 rounds of radiation on the window next to her recliner.

Having completed 12 radiation treatments, Emily is now starting to develop a new, harsher cough and esophagus discomfort.  The latter is expected to worsen as well as body fatigue.  Yet, Emily remains strong.  We have written the numbers 1-28 on our window to represent the days of treatment and each day she proudly crosses off a number.  Though lately it has come with a sigh and “Thank God..”

Emily has found refuge in submersing herself in Downton Abbey and Girls, and she longs for the weekend that brings a two day reprieve from treatment.  No matter how difficult it may get over the next three weeks, I have the utmost confidence in her determination and strength.  Last night she jumped up during our nightly meditation and ran (an achievement) for the bathroom.  While hugging the base of the toilet, I walked in and held back her hair and asked her who was stronger.  She garnered her strength and with resolve said, “I AM STRONGER THAN CANCER.”

Love to All from Jersey City.  Live in the Moment.

Miles & EmBen

15 thoughts on “Recovery & Radiation

  1. Stay strong Em! You are going to get through these 28 days in no time! I am keeping you in my thoughts and prayers!

  2. Dear Emily and Miles, you are both amazing! I pray for you both every day. You are young and beautiful and strong so hang in there for the long run. My very best, Gretchens

  3. All I can say is I love you and very proud of you and that it is OK to say that you are so ready to see the next three weeks behind you instead of in front of you. Start marking the days so u can see light …. Big hug my little sweetheart. Xoxo

  4. Em, Cross out those 28 numbers with vigor!! You are earning it for sure! You will look back on this time in 5, 10, 15, 20 years and marvel at the beautiful strength you both possessed for each other. Just keep taking it one breath, one night, one trip up the stairs at a time… and I firmly believe Downton Abbey (and Good Wife for that matter) have serious healing potential :). xoxo, EmHam from Chicago

  5. Emily and Miles – you are both such an inspiration to so many. I pray for your continued strength and determination. There is no doubt in my mind you will beat this! We look forward to meeting you at Annie & John’s wedding. John and Gay Meyer

  6. Emily, I am so sorry to hear that the radiation treatments are so tough. This darn cancer thing is hard to beat butI am certain that it CAN be beat and you WILL beat it. You have to get well enough to get back to LA before BabyFolk arrives. I know that he is waiting to meet you and Miles.Miles, Emily couldn’t have a better person to help her through the rough days that a loving husband.We are praying for you, as is our Sunday School class and my friends Bible study.God is watching over you.Love, Mr and Mrs Folk

  7. Having gone through the same procedure as Emily I can sympathize with you and her. I was subjected to the surgery , radiation and heavy doses of pain meds in 2001. in 2010 I was diagnosed with cancer on my vocal cords. and in 2012 with lung cancer again in my right upper lung thisa time. I have gone through Chemo and the tumor has been reduced to less than 1 CM with no visible signs of cancer in the lymph nodes. In a few days I will go and have surgery to remove the upper lobe of my right lung and some lymph nodes wheere the cancer was present at before. A determination has not been made as of yet if I will have more Chemo . Radiation is pretty much out because of the radiation treatments from the last two cancer bouts..
    I wish emily ( and you ) all the best . I know it is tough road to go down but keep your heads held high and just realize that you can beat this just like I have twice before ( and will again.). Prayers to ya’ll

  8. Your post is filled with love and the positive attitude it takes to get through your circumstance. I’m a 19 year cancer survivor, my mother a 14 year survivor and I have many, many friends (crazy, I know) who can say the same. Although we’re strangers, my hope is that you will be added to that list. Best wishes!

  9. Wow. That was intense. Emily your fight is such a wonderful inspiration to us and our family. Thank you for sharing and here’s to the road continuing to get better and better. You are so human and so great. Go round faced coaced Georgetown!

  10. You are phenomenal, Emily! Your strength and undying spirit inspires me, a complete stranger!

    Sending much love, hugs and healing thoughts from my family to yours,
    Gina Reed (Miles’ cousin Kelly’s boyfriend’s sister)

  11. Man, you are more powerful than a freight train, Emily! You inspire everyone who knows your story … and more! I continue to send you massive doses or healing vibes and prayers!

    Michelle, aka Bugs (your Dad’s college buddy)

  12. Miles and Emily, we are thinking of you…..Does drinking ginger tea help your nausea? An old Finnish sea captain trick that may help.

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