Week One is Done: Breast Cancer Radiation Treatment

Last Friday marked one week of radiation complete – yay! Just five weeks to go. For the most part it was as I had expected. I lie on a table while a large machine does something seemingly similar to an x-ray. It takes a little longer than an x-ray and I don’t have to hold my breath. Easy peasy, done in 10 minutes. The getting undressed and then dressed again takes as long as the treatment itself. The road to get to radiation, however, was a little more interesting.
On May 9 I went in for a radiation planning appointment and CT wherein I lay on the table with a fabric bag beneath my shoulders and head. I put my arms above my head, elbows bent, with my hands touching. The bag filled with air, or beans, or maybe toy stuffing – I don’t really know, but I felt like I was in a build-a-bear store. This was the wedge-shaped form I would lie on every day for my treatment, and it hardened so that every time I’m in it I am in the exact same position. “Why?” you ask, well there’s more…
There were four technicians working on me like they were on a timed game show – it was as though someone put the DVD on >>> and they were moving around in super-fast motion. One technician was lining up the radiation machine above me which cast red light beams on my chest. Another was using a black marker to mark dots, lines, and Xs all over my chest according to the red light beams. A third technician was calling out numbers, and I am assuming the fourth technician was recording the numbers, although she was out of my line of sight once I was on the table so I can’t say with any certainty what she was doing. All of this would take place in a matter of 15 to 30 seconds, then they would all zoom out of the room in super-fast motion, and zap – there went an x-ray. Just as quickly they would be back, making adjustments, more marking, more calling out of numbers, poof they would disappear, and zap – there went an x-ray. We went through this process a few times, there was a CT scan in there somewhere to help with the mapping, and when they were happy with their marks they let me go.
I went home with all of the marks on my chest, and was told to not wash them off. I could shower, but was not to scrub the marked areas. My next appointment was a week later – keeping those marks on and legible was going to be quite a challenge. I didn’t scrub, but the simple acts of wearing clothing (necessary), sleeping (necessary), and yes, perspiring (gasp!) all did a job on those marks. One week later they weren’t in pristine condition, but the blurred and faded road map was there.
On May 16 I hopped up on the table again, snuggled into my build-a-bear form, they lined me up with the red light beams and took an x-ray. I believe there were only two technicians this time and they moved at a normal speed. After looking at the x-ray, they decided to make just a couple of minor adjustments to the marks, and then I was given four tiny little permanent tattoos. Merely dots; it looks as though I have tiny black moles on my chest. The purpose of these is so that once I am on the table in my form and position, and the light beams are shining on my chest, they can line me up precisely with the dots as a guide and the radiation can be aimed at the exact spot every day. Pretty darn cool, huh? There are some incredibly talented people working in the medical field for whom I am incredibly thankful!
I started the actual treatments on May 20, and the plan is to do this Monday through Friday for six weeks. Because I had some lymph node involvement, the last week or two will be aimed at my underarm area just for good measure. So far the side effects are few. My skin is a little pink right after the treatment, but by morning it‘s back to my special shade of pale. They gave me Recovery Cream to apply twice a day to help with the sunburn that will eventually develop.
From the very first treatment I felt some reflux that stayed with me through the evening. By day three, after having the same feeling each day, I asked the doctor about it. He said reflux is not a side effect of radiation, and that it is likely caused by me being anxious about the treatment. I don’t feel anxious, but I’ve been prescribed something for the reflux, and in true Kelly fashion I’m not taking it yet. I’m going to try adding ginger to my diet and will take a homeopathic Stress Mint before each treatment and see if that does the trick. I’m all about not taking a prescription med if I don’t have to. I’ll give it a week or two and let you know if the ginger and Stress Mints work out.
So I have the lumpectomy checked off my list, am in the process of knocking out the radiation treatments, have drastically changed my diet, and on June 11 will start a fitness program at the Y designed specifically for cancer patients. The fact that this has all been fairly easy so far makes me a little nervous about what’s to come, but whatever that might be, I’ll meet it head-on. I’ll keep you posted, but know that I am SO doing this!

2 thoughts on “Week One is Done: Breast Cancer Radiation Treatment

  1. Hey Kelly! I am proud of you..this blog is pretty amazing. The change in your diet and the Y is a great idea! I look forward to hearing about your progress and total remission. Thinking about you and praying for a fast recovery 🙂

  2. Lorri, thank you for the support and encouragement – I really appreciate it. Also, thank you for reading and for being the first person to post a comment on my blog! If I had a give-away, well…I’d give it to you 🙂

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