more light, more light!

More light I’ll have, from here through Halloween, once every weekday, thirty six treatments including the “boost” radiation. O joy.

The treatment itself is easy enough. I go up to the hospital oncology radiation unit; change from the waist up into one of their lovely gowns, open at the back; climb onto the table where my mold is waiting for me – there’s a whole rack of them to the right in the room, near the machine, hanging up waiting for their originals.  (The molds are somewhat similar to the expandable molds sometimes used in packing – mine was made at my first set up session; I simply lay on my back in rough position* on the bagged material -which at that point was malleable and sort of shifting under me-  and the technicians did *something* that caused the material to set up suddenly. I would have preferred warning.  Partially because of this, my mold isn’t particularly comfortable – I didn’t realize that they were about to take that final step before they actually did it, so I wasn’t in the very best position, armwise, and I now have to turn my head against the mold’s contours each time to get it out of the way.)  

They’ve got extra pillows set up to support my long legs and rest my weary back; I slip my arms out of the gown, lie back on the table, and fit myself to the mold’s rigid contours. The technicians then align my body precisely with the red laser grid projected from the ceiling, using the cloth beneath me to shift my body until I’m in perfect position. They’re very careful about this, which I greatly appreciate – those tattoos I got earlier are used for positioning. Once that’s done, they scatter off to their safety zone and the treatment begins. The machine whirs about me, pausing at various angles to whine ominously for varying lengths of time, my eyes resolutely watch the fire sprinkler, my breath as shallow and even as I can make it. In ten minutes or less it’s done, but it is a very long ten minutes indeed.

Three times a week – that’d be Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, for those who haven’t quite mastered the current calendar system –  I have ultrasounds done ( yet another study – ad majorem bonum), and about once a week I’ll have X-rays done to check my positioning.  I use the recommended Natural Care gel on the entire area three times a day; after showering in the morning, after treatment, and right before bed.

No big deal, right? except….

It burns already, it’s burned from the first treatment, even though the conventional wisdom is that there aren’t any noticeable “side” effects for the first two weeks; the conventional wisdom is wrong.

I am not best pleased about this.

It’s not bad, mind you, not yet, but it’s definitely noticeable; a tenderness and heat to the treated area, a very slight, almost imperceptible, reddening of the skin, a slight coarsening. Enough to make me aware of it, enough to disturb my sleep patterns. Enough.

Add to that the recent onset of lymphedema in my left arm and flank (radiation treatment will worsen this, tyvm), which I was concerned about and sought preventative care for back in June* – without any great results, I might add. I should be going back to the lymphedema clinic soon*, where hopefully I’ll get some answers and solutions – this was really most discouraging to me. Granted, it’s a mild case, no huge distortion or swelling – but it remains painful, and I’m keenly aware that this is often a chronic condition that requires lifelong care and management. Keenly aware, and not terribly happy with it, I might add.

Luckily, there are these:

If I’m going to have to go there, they’ll definitely help take some of the sting out of the reality.

Still, and all in all, I’d rather not.

*For radiation treatment of breast cancer, your arms are up over your head (think of a very sloppy fifth position, with the arms angular rather than properly rounded and the hands touching – in my case I’m actually holding my right wrist in my left hand and my elbows stick out like wings), and your head should be turned away from the affected side.


* We’ve been playing phone tag the last few days. *sigh*

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