I have some misgivings about starting my radiation treatment this week. Admittedly, I am a tad scared. Radiation has been used for eons to eradicate cancer. Even before they knew how it really worked.
I am now 9 weeks post surgery, which oddly feels forever ago. My under arm and breast scars are still tender, although most all the scar tissue seems to have dissolved. Slowly, my skin is retraining its sense of feeling. Dutifully, my left arms are stretched daily to keep the lymph nodes flowing fluid. This is not hard, as I’ve resumed my active pace of using my body physically again. Albeit, a few modifications for caution and self preservation sake. In fact, my once huge energy is flowing again. So much so my friends laugh. Because it comes out in my prolific stories without a breath taken inbetween the words that spew.
It has been nice this long break after surgery. Made me forget I am/was/had cancer. That I was a cancer patient. Except for the pre-testing. An Echocardiogram. A bone density test. A 2-hour consult with the radiation oncologist doctor. And a simulation to acclimate me to the month long procedure of sweeping my body of any residual dead cancer cells that could be roaming around.
Most folks dismiss the radiation as an extra. However, I now do not. It was another education; one more chapter in my cancer blog. The procedure is pretty high tech now. They can exact the beam with their knowledge and instruments. Yet. There are risks to other organs. Namely my heart and lungs. Risks that may show up down the road. There is a balancing act of risks considered. All my data suggested that my cancer has a 30% re-occurrence rate down the road without radiation. Mostly because that scant trance of dead cells had escaped my tumor.
I will admit the statistics creep me out. The man oncologist, who is young, bright, and compassionate, spoke his truth. I swear, all these doctors look like my kids now. But they are brilliant and I trust their educated judgments. I asked him point blank questions. He answered by statistics. Suggested highly to do the radiation. To my question, he answered some opt out do to the risks to other organs. I understood why. The risks vs. the benefits. I signed the consent. Figured the procedure was akin to sweeping out the cobwebs that may have a few roamers left behind.
Of course there are side effects. Fatigue will come at some point. Skin rash. A smaller cup size will result… aka a perkier boob because the radiation builds scar tissue and tightens up the skin. Thought to ask if they might tighten up the other side, as he said my breasts would be uneven because of radiation. But. I kept my sarcastic mouth shut. It makes me nervous to alter my body for the sake of statistics.
The simulation along with the CT scan was ‘training’ for radiation. Along with more x-rays to locate my heart, and lungs. Felt like I was in a sci-fi lab. I breathed through a tube that was connected to a pair of glasses where I saw their computer screen. I saw my breaths. Up-down. Up-down. Breathe normal they said. Laughable. Normal is… I do not breathe through my mouth holding a tube at all. Plus laying in the ‘position’ to be radar-ed is far from normal. Oh. And not everyone is privileged to breathe and hold thy breath as I am. They told me this breathing technique is used on those of us that had our tumors in our left breast. This technique is used to move my breast away from my chest organs. Thus when radiation is shot it is away from my heart and lungs.
I was to breathe normal. Then deeply to get my breathe up between the white lines, where the green line was, and hold. For 30 seconds. This was when the radiation turns on. The numbers count down. When the lines disappeared I again breathe normal. Radiation is all connected to my breath. I break the cycle. The machine cuts off. Smart machine. I found it like a video game of sorts. And once in the no zone of time nor space it was easy to get lost. See this is a meditation practice I have done. So turns out, my ritual is good for radiation. That is, when I officially I start this week. They needed another week to study my scans, and figure out where to shoot the beam to sweep out the possible dead cell cobwebs.
Oh, yeah – I now boast 3 permanent tattoos! One needle point in black was placed on the outside of each breast. And one smack in the middle between them on my chest. That is so they can know the target to shoot each time. The appointments are 20-30 minutes long, start to finish. Most all is setting up for the exact position, replicating it the same each time. Radiation is supposed to be only a minute. 3 weeks, everyday will be a full left breast shoot along with it extending into my lymph node armpit. The final week is called a boost. Just shooting my cancer spot on my boob. Golly. From what I saw in prior pictures, the cancer and all the healthy tissue around it was extracted. What more can be done? As they kill it good, I will meditate white light around my heart and lungs and other organs to preserve and protect them. And pray for good measure.