RADIATION REVELATIONS

Radiation2

Inquiring minds want to know, so: The actual radiation therapy takes around 3 minutes. Not including getting undressed and dressed again. On Mondays, I visit with the doctor who asks how I’m doing and then tells me to keep applying aloe gel. Riveting, right? Those days the appointment lasts maybe 20 minutes tops, the most frightening part of it being when I step on the scale. The longest visits are the ones when we do simulation. We did that at the very beginning and again a little over a week ago.

During the last seven appointments, they focus on the actual tumor bed, so the simulation allows them to take measurements and X-rays to check they are targeting correctly.

In simulation, you lie down on a table with your “damn traitor” boob exposed so they can start turning you into a human connect-the-dots game again. This time there was a fun moment when the tech looked at my breast,then learned in for an even closer look and said, “Wow.”

Not certain if “wow” was good or bad, I squashed my immediate impulse to respond with a sarcastic, “Yes, they’re pretty spectacular, I KNOW.”

As it turns out, they were looking for the incision where the surgeon went in (twice) for the lumpectomies. Potential TMI coming up, so skip to next paragraph if you don’t want to get too personal, or if you are squeamish. The doc went in by making an incision just at the edge of the areola (wince). See, if you use professional language, it’s easier to deal with. Despite two procedures, it is nearly invisible. (As evidenced by the two tech faces bent extremely close to my um, scar area, exclaiming, “Wow. Who was your surgeon? Dr. Ganaraj? She’s amazing.”)

I couldn’t agree more.

Once THAT was established, measurements and X-rays began again. More lines being drawn on. This time with green instead of blue. Then to the CT scan to confirm the alignment. I left with three new clear tape circles covering green Xs and a renewed, unwelcome realization that this is some serious shit.

UPDATE: At this point I’ve had 4 treatments of the tumor bed. They have a special plate that is made just for me – to focus on the tumor bed specifically – as determined by the simulation session. They were telling me that some people end up with plates shaped like the US, or like Texas. (Not exactly the plate but the hole in the plate.) Apparently, in cases of mastectomy, often the hole in the plate is shaped like a penis. (How’s that for adding insult to injury?) We can’t decide what mine is shaped like. The tech said Woodstock’s head. (Snoopy’s buddy.) You decide. This is the view from lying on the table – so what I see.

Radiation6

Since this awesome fun time is nearly over, I took some other photos too – here is the massive machinery behind the door I never noticed before.

Radiation8

Here it is in motion.

Crazy, right?

This is the room where you get the treatment. Not like a sterile hospital room, right?  It’s like getting radiation therapy in someone’s sort of messy office.

Radiation1

Here’s another view of what I see from the table. See the purple light beams in this photo and the one of the plate? Those are what they line my green Xs up with.

Radiation4

The current phrase that pays is “GOOD-NESS I’m tired.” Seriously, some mornings I think if the bed was on fire I’d just lie there. (Probably thinking it was another hot flash.)

But we’re in the home stretch. Just three more treatments! Until then, zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Advertisements

HOW MANY ONCOLOGISTS DOES IT TAKE

Well, I disappeared for awhile into the cancer universe. Time flies when you’re having fun!image

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.

image

image

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!