And my skin is burning with the fire of the world
Sometimes my eyes are tricking me
But when the words of His song
Are singing through the birds
I can't help but die, so He can take me higher
Burlap to Cashmere — "Skin is Burning"
Fast food feels fuzzy
'Cuz it's made from stuff that's scuzzy
I always thought I was such a nerd
I refuse to touch that strange bean curd
The Beets (from "Doug") — "Killer Tofu"
So. We're a month out from the end of treatments and everything seems to be going pretty well. The doctors and therapists are all saying that the healing is going pretty much as expected and some are saying that I'm doing better than most. The vast majority of the pain in my mouth is gone with the exception of a couple spots — most notably on the tip and underside of my tongue. Those seem to be holding on for dear life and screaming Dylan Thomas poems at me. But I have been able to start eating small amounts of soft foods again. Ice cream, pudding, mashed bananas. Yep — I'm back to eating baby food. But it has been nearly a month and a half since I've had any real food and it's a step in the right direction. And I'm glad to make whatever progress I can toward normality.
The only other thing I'm really dealing with right now is burnt skin. See, when the radiation stops, the cooking still goes on for a while. Within the first two weeks after treatments ended, the skin on my face and neck got really dry. As in a flaking off and peeling type of dry. Shortly after that, my neck started forming some scabs in a couple spots. Basically, these are places where my skin has been burnt by the barrage of X-rays and is trying to heal. It's a bit sore but not too bad. The worst part, honestly, is that it impinges the movement of my head so it's hard to turn it very far at times. That too is getting better but it was unexpected. I was ready for the stuff happening on the inside but I didn't know about the things that would happen on the outside. This too shall pass.
One other thing wrapped up this week. I just looked back and realized that I haven't mentioned this at all. Before treatments started, they told me I was a candidate for two research studies. The first involved a new drug that was supposed to help with the soreness in the mouth. While that would have been nice, there's no guarantee how much it would have helped if at all. Since I was getting ready to start chemo — and since I'm someone who doesn't even like to take over the counter meds unless I really have to — I really didn't like the idea of pumping yet more stuff through my veins. I declined.
The second involved beetroot powder which is supposed to help mitigate the loss of muscle tissue during radiation. You mix a prescribed amount with water and either drink it or, as in my case, shove it through your feeding tube, for the duration of your treatments and a while after. Three times throughout the process — a baseline before starting, once during or right at the end of treatment, and then a while after — they do an assessment of your body tissue and a few strength measurements. Then they compare how you held up during the treatments and how well you've recovered afterward. I took part in that one. I mean, it's a vegetable. How bad could it be? It was pretty interesting to see the results, too. My body seems to have held up fairly well. At the middle evaluation, I had lost both muscle and fat tissue but the amount was right in line with the amount of weight I had lost so it made sense. The proportions stayed the same, though, so that was good. At the final one, I was almost back to my baseline measurements and I did a little bit better in one of the strength tests. Anyway, that's now done and I don't have to smell beets at lunch every day anymore. (w00t!)