• radiation •
Wednesday, May 30 at 2:45pm is when my first radiation appointment was. I will be having radiation daily for 5 weeks. That’s 25 appointments total. Every Friday I would see my radiation oncologist as she would check my skin and answer any additional questions that I may have.
Radiation therapy treats cancer by using high-energy waves to kill tumor cells. The goal is to destroy or damage the cancer without hurting too many healthy cells.
This treatment can cause side effects, but they’re different for everyone. The ones you have depend on the type of radiation you get, how much you get, the part of your body that gets treatment, and how healthy you are overall.
There are two kinds of radiation side effects: early and late. Early side effects, such as nausea and fatigue, usually don’t last long. They may start during or right after treatment and last for several weeks after it ends, but then they get better. Late side effects, such as lung or heart problems, may take years to show up and are often permanent when they do.
The most common early side effects are fatigue and skin problems. The worst side effects usually start at the 3rd week and lasts up to 6 weeks after radiation is complete. The skin can burn, blister, & get very tender. But I’m applying a special steroid ointment and a radiation ointment to my breast 2 times a day to cut down on the side effects.
But hey, it’s NOT chemotherapy!!!
I still get asked why am I receiving radiation treatment if my lymph nodes were negative when tested (if they were positive it would mean that my cancer has spread) & my tumor was under 5 mm. Yes, those are both true BUT when you add all my tumors together they were larger than 5 mm so radiation it is! Plus it will decrease my reoccurrence rate from around 25% to less than 5%. Yeah!
One of my tumors was against my chest wall and this is the area that they will be treating. My margins were clear after surgery but this particular area only cleared by .5mm, so very close! The area is also very close to my lung, so they will be monitoring this area very closely as they don’t want to damage a piece of my lung.
I went in for a consolation a week before and they measured and determined the exact area the radiation would be hitting. I received 4 tiny dot tattoos around my chest to make it easier for the nurses to line me up for treatment.
The first treatment, I was nervous as it was a whole new process. I checked in and the front desk clerk showed me what to do. As I have a card that I scan and check myself in and then I grab a gown, change, & sit in the special waiting area. You just have to take off your shirt and bra as leaving on any pants, shoes, & socks is ok, even jewelry!
So I changed into one of those oh so sexy hospital gowns and took a seat.
They called me pretty quickly and here goes nothing!
I sat on the small table as the two nurses lined me up. I placed my arms over my head and held on to two bars that were by my ears and then my legs were straight in front of me. Then I was asked if I wanted any warm towels for my arms. (Yes please, always!!).
I was in position to start and the machine did 2 small rotations (probably took 90 seconds) and I was done. It was pretty simple.
I was told that once a week I would be receiving an X-ray to detect if my placement is correct & to see if I’m swelling. They also measure the area once a week.
I was sailing through the weeks pretty quickly. The biggest inconvenience was the actual driving across town daily to my appointments. Radiation doesn’t hurt during the actual procedure, or at least it didn’t hurt me as everyone is different. This is probably the most common question I get asked. The only pain involved was comparable to a slight sunburn after the daily dose of directed radiation had built up and burned the skin. By the fifth week, I had developed a burn where the underside of the breast rested against the chest and the skin wasn’t able to air out.
I was still pretty gentle on myself since I started radiation only 3 weeks after completing chemotherapy. Fatigue set in the first two weeks pretty bad. I would come home from my appointment and lay down. This was my quiet time to myself to reflect on the day or to actual sleep. It was nice to start this habit to take me through the whole 5 weeks of treatment.
Another thing that stood out during radiation was the staff. I have an excellent radiation oncologist and her staff is just as kind. They were all pretty young, very informative, professional, & supportive. I bonded with quite a few of them in the short amount of time. They were cheering me on during the last week in completing yet another treatment.
The photos below reflect my radiation treatment with the nurses, actual machine, & a fancy radiation wrap that a dear friend bought for me to wear.