2013–Please be AWESOME!

I have found time at last to update our blog!  I have settled in to a routine with my radiation treatments, but it leaves very little free time to sit at the computer and type.  I don’t see the kids as much with this new routine, so I feel guilty sitting at the computer when I am finally at home with them!  The holidays flew by and any spare minutes there were spent with family and friends.  We had a great Christmas break and brought in the new year in the usual Zacharias fashion–with friends, family, fishing, and Busch Light :-)

We also celebrated Mia’s birthday a little early while our family was here for Christmas.  She was thrilled to have the presence (and presents) of all her little cousins at her Tinker bell party.


Overall, radiation has been going pretty well.  About two weeks ago, I started to have some discomfort with swallowing.  Part of the radiation treatment focuses on the lymph nodes in my lower neck and along my left collar-bone, so this was an expected side effect.  It kind of feels like I’m swallowing around a big lump at the base of my throat.  It’s a weird sensation, but certainly not one that has affected my ability to eat!  :-)  It just means smaller bites and slower eating.

Last week, I really started to notice the skin changes.  The lower part of my neck and collar-bone are turning pink and the whole left side of my chest is turning ruddy & brown.  So far, the only painful area is under my arm–the rest just itches.  I have been following the radiation staff’s advice and have been using all of their recommended products.  My corner of the bathroom countertop is packed with  moisturizers, creams, and ointments!

In my last post I added a link to an article about radiation treatment.  (Here it is again, if you missed it the first time.)  I thought I’d also share a few pictures and try to describe it a little more, if you’re interested.  If not–just skip to the end!

Each day when I arrive, I change into a gown and place my stuff in a small locker.  At 1:00 pm (give or take 5-10 minutes) I am escorted to the radiation treatment room which holds the linear accelerator.  015This is the machine that delivers the radiation treatment.  Ordinary x-ray machines cannot provide the focused and specialized delivery of the radiation required to kill cancer cells.  This bad boy can.











013This is the door to the room where the magic happens.  It’s at least 6 inches thick.  Probably more.  Once I’m situated on the table, everyone hightails it out of the room and closes this door behind them.  Remember when I was talking about getting chemotherapy for the first time?  The pharmacists and nurses all wore double gloves, gowns and masks to protect themselves from the chemo drugs that were going into my body.  This door kind of brings back those same feelings…



012This is the linear accelerator.  I lay on my back, with my hands above my head–hanging on to those two little white cylinders.  The technicians position my upper body precisely using the four tattoos and lasers.  My feet are held together loosely with a large rubber band.  I think this is to prevent any mindless wiggling or fidgeting during treatments.  My chest is exposed and a large 11 x 14 inch gel pack is placed over my left chest wall and wrapped around my side.  This, they tell me, is to “trick the machine into giving a higher dose.”  The table is raised about 4 feet into the air and slides to my right about 8 inches.  They cover me back up with the gown and treatment begins–after they all bail out of the room and are safely behind that massive door, of course.

Once the table is raised, I am about 12-18 inches away from that black square on the top of the machine.  The whole machine rotates around me during the treatment time.   It starts out tilted to my right side at about the 2 o’clock position and moves to the left, stopping seven more times during the 15 minute treatment until it is directly underneath me (radiating the back side of the lymph nodes along my collar-bone.)

Inside the black square, there are hundreds of metal sheets stacked next to each other.  Those metal sheets slide side to side about every 45 seconds, making tons of different shapes, allowing only certain areas to be radiated.  Sometimes the open space looks like California.  Sometimes it looks like a T-Rex.  Occasionally, it’s only the size of a pea.  It is never a regular old square or rectangle–yet the burn on my chest has clearly defined edges–at a perfect right angle.

As I said, the whole thing takes about 15 minutes, sometimes more if they take any extra images or x-rays.  Some days I catch a quick cat nap while I lay there.  Most days I just pray–thanking God for my healthy family, praying that this is all working, and praying for others who need comfort or healing.  I thank God for letting it be me laying on that table and not one of my children.

I have learned a lot of lessons along this journey–and no doubt there will be more.  But perhaps one of the most important, is that no matter how bad I think it is–it could be so much worse.  It only takes a few hours at work or mere minutes with another cancer patient to realize how much I have to be thankful for.

One more thing to add along those lines–in keeping with the new year tradition, I would like to challenge you to add a ‘new’ New Year’s resolution to the trusty “lose weight, exercise more” promises that we all make.

I challenge you to give.

Make a meal for someone in need.  Donate to a cause that is close to your heart.  Send a card to that person who needs extra help or encouragement.  Donate your time or money to community fundraisers.  Donate or go to those silent auctions and benefits in your community.

Be intensely grateful for what you have and be generous to those in need.

Easier than facing the treadmill and foregoing the fries—don’t you think?

14 thoughts on “2013–Please be AWESOME!

  1. Thank you, especially for reminding us to help each other in any way we can, large or small, thanks again. You and your family will remain on the Schultz prayer list!!

  2. What an outstanding blog and so full of all the reminders we all need everyday to make this world a better and special place. You and your beautiful family are on the Rutten prayer list (which is said 5 times a day here in Saudi). I will try and be AWESOME as you are my inspiration.

  3. Thank you for giving us a look into your life and I appreciate hearing the details. What you share each time touches so many people you can’t even know how much you are making a difference in so many lives with your words and the life you are living. Thank you for being a strong woman and a wonderful part of our family! You touch me with every word!

  4. You are an amazing writer! Even if you didn’t have the pictures, I would be able to see the same scene in my mind.

  5. First of all, a hug to you dear Cassie, and then my ongoing amazement. Your description of the aloneness inside that huge protective door allows those of us so fortunate to be on the outside to understand just a little; your lovely smile and the fiercely strong gal that I know manages it day after day
    lets everyone who sees you feel like there can be no doubts and fears, only victory; your call to us to live the compassion that even when felt, sometimes is also pretty easy to not act on, is SO typically you, so exactly why your are SO loved – and SO valuable to all who know you. I join in prayers that 2013 may be awesome for you and your family! Thank you for sharing and inspiring.

  6. I know 2013 is going to be awesome for you guys! You are going to kick this cancer’s butt this year! We love you and thank you for reminding us all that we need to be able to continue to help others and give back. Only a couple more days! You can do it!!

  7. Wow! I always look forward to reading your blog, and this one is very powerful. I’ll try and “heart” you at 1:00 every day! Love you, Cassie! Stay strong. I also join in the others above wishing you a wonder-filled 2013 !!

  8. You are amazing and thank you for sharing this information. Very interesting in how far technology has come and how treatment is given these days. My mom had radiation and I remember at times helping her put on cream and wrapping her bandages but I never knew how it was exactly given back then. You are such a strong and beautiful person and yes, may 2013 be an amazing year for you and your family!

  9. Pingback: Zaps (Take 2) | The Zacharias Way

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