To catch up… After a month of recovery I met with the MEDICAL oncologist and the RADIATION oncologist. The radiation oncologist told me what my surgeon had. 6 weeks of radiation. Following that, according to my MEDICAL oncologist, I start a prescription I get to take for the next 5 years. The medicine removes the last traces of estrogen from my body. Did you know that your body produces estrogen – even if you have no ovaries? Or any other of that pesky girl stuff?? Why didn’t I know that? I must’ve missed that day in health class. Anyway, the medication will sop up any estrogen being produced, lest it feed another cancer cell or two. (My tumor was estrogen positive.) I’m not sure what my life will be like with no estrogen at all. Currently, it’s a roller coaster of hot flashes that feel as though I’m about to burst into flames interspersed with some heavy-duty mood swings. So the next 5 years should be AWESOME EXCITING.
When they prep you up for radiation, they do a simulation which involves lying on a table with your boob exposed to EVERYONE. While you lie there with one arm up over your head, they draw on you. There were also calipers involved, and measuring. It took about 45 minutes total. Afterwards, I was asked to stand up and look in the mirror. Imagine my surprise when I found my left side, from breast bone to under my arm, covered in marker. I looked like those graphics that show which part of the cow each cut of meat comes from. There were two spots – one on my chest and one under my arm where a piece of clear tape covered an X. Those need to stay in place throughout the 6 weeks of radiation.
Sadly, since my friend just bought a house with a pool, I was told those marker Xs mean no swimming. So much for my plan to swim laps for exercise. I asked about a tattoo so I could proceed with my plans, but was told the marks are better. Apparently, when in a dark room, aiming radiation “lasers” (I don’t know what they’re called) at you, the easier the target is to see, the better. They kind of put the fear of God in you when they say, “What you’re doing here for the next 6 weeks affects the rest of your life. So, you don’t want to take any chances.”
At the end of the third week of radiation, I started feeling pretty tired. On Friday I could barely keep my eyes open. This seems to be right on schedule for side effects according to the experts. The radiation target is also looking pretty red. Like a sunburn. Not a terrible sunburn, but definitely red. There’s occasional shooting pain – from the healing after the lumpectomy, but nothing really from the radiation. The hard part of all this is finding clothing that doesn’t rub against that irritated skin under your arm or on your breast, yet allows you to go to work without having a complaint filed against you with HR. Side boob is frowned upon in most places of work.
The good news is, we’re half way home! Oh, and the big marker lines are gone now, just the Xs remain. Woot!