For the last two weeks, I have started each day with an unusual regimen: radiation therapy with Thor the Healer. Thor the Healer is the name of the radiation machine that greets me every morning. I love the name.
Thor was having problems last week and my therapies on Thursday and Friday were all jumbled up, but I eventually got treated. I know how he feels. Sometimes you just don’t want to do what you’re supposed to do.
Before I started radiation, I read my Radiation Therapy and You booklet and I’ve also been on the internet visiting various breast cancer chat rooms. I was warned, “Don’t go on the internet!” Yeah, like that was going to happen.
Here are some of the side effects:
Fatigue – Check!
Redness – the treatment area could look like you have a sunburn or a tan. Check! I have a light burn.
Pruritus (is this really a word?) – the skin in the treatment area could itch so badly that you could scratch it until it gets infected. Thankfully, this has not happened.
Dry and Peeling Skin – the skin can get so dry that it peels. This has not happened because the radiation oncologist told me to buy a $14 bottle of lotion. It seems to be working.
Moist Reaction (I hate the word ‘moist’, don’t you?) – apparently radiation kills skin cells which can cause the skin to peel off faster than it can grow back. This can result in sores or ulcers. Hopefully my super duper expensive lotion will prevent this from happening.
Swollen Skin - the skin in my treatment area may get swollen and puffy. This is kind of hard to tell with boobs since they are both swollen and puffy by design, so I can’t give you an accurate assessment at this time. Maybe later in my treatment.
Hair Loss – radiation can cause hair loss only in the radiated area. I was told that I might lose the hair under my left arm. Put a check mark in the pro column!
Side effects not listed in the book:
Pain Bursts – radiation can cause shooting pains to explode in your breast like a punch to gut. This pain burst will last only a few minutes, but can cause you to double over, grab your breast, and cry out in agony. These pains were intense during the first week of radiation, but have slowly subsided. I think this is because Thor is slowly killing all of my breast tissue. Oh, and I read a post in one of the chat rooms that said this could be a permanent side effect. Wonderful. It has a name, but I quickly forgot it because I don’t want it to be so (that works, right?).
Nipple Fry – it feels like you have an extremely sunburned nipple. Don’t know what that feels like? I didn’t either until I started treatment. I know you’re thinking, “Duh. Didn’t she read second item in the first list?” I did, but I didn’t connect the dots that since my skin would look sunburned, that it would actually feel sunburned. And, it didn’t occur to me that my nipple was part of my skin. It’s very, very uncomfortable. It would feel better if I didn’t have to wear clothes. But, alas, social convention requires me to wear clothes. My radiation oncologist offered a special numbing cream. I told him that I would think about it.
As of today, I’ve had twelve treatments. Only twenty-one treatments to go! Usually, the days fly by quickly for me, but now the days are drifting by s-l-o-w-l-y. But, there is light at the end of the tunnel.