Caution Radioactive

Caution Radioactive

Yesterday afternoon I went to the Radiation Oncologist to be “mapped” for radiation.  I was not looking forward to it, but was in and out in about 40 minutes.  They called me back, I changed into a lovely hospital gown, and they took me back to a sterile room with a CT scan machine.  They had me lay down on my back and began positioning my body.  Essentially, they were lining me up so that I will be in the same position every time I come in for radiation.  If you would like a visual:  I will be on my back, arms behind my head, my legs in a support, and my head will be turned to the left (to keep my throat away from the laser going into my right breast).  Once I was positioned, they did a CT scan, took some photos, and marked “x’s” several places on my chest and sides.  It’s quite scientific really, but from what I understand, they share the scans and information from that appointment with their physics team.  Then, it takes the physics team some time to get everything designed and approved by my Radiation Oncologist.  By the way, specifically,they are targeting the chest wall and the lymph nodes in my right breast where the tumor was.

I go back next Wednesday, November 16th for a “dress rehearsal” (she really used those words) and then I start my 28 days of treatment the following day on the 17th of November.  They are closed for Thanksgiving and the day after.  They are open the Sunday before Thanksgiving.  And they are closed the Monday after Christmas. Other than those exceptions, I will be there every morning at 9:45 a.m. Monday through Friday for radiation.  If all goes as planned, I should be done with radiation the last week of December.  I am expecting each appointment to be no more than 30 minutes.  Not exactly how I want to spend the holiday season, but again, will do what I need to do!

I mentioned the side effects in my last post:  fatigue, skin irritation, and some impact (shrinkage) to the plastic surgery already completed on my right breast.  The Radiation Technician went over all of that with me again.  I asked how patients described fatigue.  She assured me it is not like the fatigue I felt during chemo, but she described it like having a really, really busy day.  I laughed and said, “Well I feel like that every day – I have a very busy, energetic 4 1/2 year old!”  On the skin irritation, she told me once we get started they will give me a creme that I will have to use daily that will help with the irritation and to keep the skin soft.  She did say side effects are cumulative.

As with anything I have been through during this journey, there are other side effects that are rare but still possible.  They are generally not good, but of course they have to tell you about all of them.  To give you an idea, some of the longer term side effects of radiation include lung scarring (less than 2%), rib fracture (rare), radiation pneumonia (less than 2%).  Lovely, huh!?

Honestly, I am planning on (and praying for) minimal side effects.  Who has time for fatigue?  I plan to drop Gracie off at school, drive to my radiation appointment, get it done, go run errands, go back and pick Gracie up from school and resume a normal, active afternoon.  I even hope to squeeze a work out in every now and then!  So, side effects stay away!  I hope I am not disappointed.  We shall see.

Thanks to everyone for the birthday wishes, prayers and positive comments!  Will keep you posted.

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