Sunday, September 29, 2013

Radon in My Life

     Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, but radioactive, elemental gas in the bedrock of many areas in the U.S  It is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking and is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. This gas leaches into our homes through our basements, crawl spaces, and foundations, increasing the risk of lung cancer.
 Radon : Radon material on the periodic table. Part of a series.

I have no idea why I have lung cancer, but as a non-smoker with no family history, I occasionally think about its cause.  

     Several months ago I had a radon home-test which I didn't use because it was expired.  As the weather is getting cooler around this area and I think about our house being "closed up" more for the winter months, I remembered that I wanted to check our radon level.  So, a few weeks ago I finally went to the local hardware store and picked up a new home tester.  I followed the easy instructions and have learned that our radon level is 10.8 pCi/L in the basement.  The EPA recommends fixing your house if the level is 4.0pCi/L or greater. [Radon levels are usually highest in the lowest part of a house.  The radon level, in general, on the floor above the lowest part of a house, is 50%.  For each floor above the lowest part of a house, it continues to be reduced by ~50%.  Therefore, our first floor is ~5.4 pCi/L and our second floor is ~2.7 pCi/L.]

     With the help of Angie's List, Wynn and I have arranged for radon mitigation of our house next week.  The radon guy will first seal around our sump pump because radon gas can enter our house around it.  Then he will drill into our foundation and run a PVC pipe up through our house, into the attic, and out the roof.  There will be a small continuous fan the draws the radon gas out from our foundation and into the atmosphere.  Like this: 
We had three estimates which ranged from $1,000-1,200 for mitigation.  [The test kit was ~$11.00.  I had to send in the test kit vials to a lab, which cost $30.00.]  Once the mitigation system is installed, I'll test it again.

     I don't know that if there was less radon in my home I wouldn't have gotten cancer, but looking forward, I'd like to protect my family as much as possible.  I'd like that for you, too.  Please consider testing your home.  

*Note:  We had our house tested for radon when we moved in back in 1994.  At that time, the radon level was OK.  Things change.

Love, Luna

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Information on an "As Needed Basis"

Living with cancer is an evolving experience.  Back in April, I realized that I wasn't experiencing pain that required me to be on Oxycontin and started the four-month process of weaning off of it. I knew, at that time, that eventually I would probably need to go back on it. I have conflicted feelings about the stuff.  I certainly hope that I'll never need it in the future, but in all likelihood, there will come a time that I will be thankful that it's available to me.  

Since I've gone off of Oxycontin, I have been fortunate enough to have very little pain.  There are some days when I don't have any twinges at all.  (I love those days!)  However, two weeks ago things changed, a bit.  I woke up with right rib pain in a specific area near my upper back.  I only felt it when I moved my arm a certain way, but it was sharp enough to take my breath away.  For five consecutive days I woke up to the same pain, so I finally called my oncologist.  He ordered a chest X-ray to make sure I didn't have any rib fractures.  The good news is that I don't.

The not-so-good news is that I now have some bones changes that are more associated with pain and fractures.  Rats.  Initially my bone mets were of the 'blastic' variety.  Blastic bones lesions are areas of over calcification and are less associated with fractures. The other type is called 'lytic' bone lesions, which significantly weaken the bone matrix, causing them to break easily. Of the two, blastic is the way to go. What I didn't understand, (someone probably told me this earlier but it didn't stick), is that blastic mets can change into lytic mets over time, and this is what's happening to me.

I met with my oncologist wanting to know if this now means that my oral chemotherapy is no longer working. He gave me the definitive answer of, "Not necessarily." Last month my most recent scans indicated that my disease is stable.  The fact that I am experiencing some bone pain doesn't necessarily mean that my disease is progressing, but it does mean that the progression of bone changes is continuing. I now take more calcium and vitamin D supplements, along with a monthly IV treatment, to help reduce my risk of bone fractures.  

I have learned that, early on, folks with bone mets often don't have pain. (I was pain-free for many months. Other folks, however, discover they have bone mets due to a fracture.)  The pain then comes and goes, eventually being more present than not.  Continuous pain is why medications like Oxycontin are available to cancer patients. This time I have been able to treat my rib pain with ibuprofen and right now I feel a lot better.  However, these past two weeks gave me a taste of what may lie ahead for me.  Needless to say, it makes me sad and a little scared. 

I have had to take in this type of information slowly, on an 'as needed' basis.  Now that I know, I'll be better able to prepare...meaning that I'll have my bottle of Oxycontin close by.  
P.S.  Still working, exercising (more gently), and other regular stuff.