Today (Monday, August 27) I had two radiation appointments. The first was a session with the radiation oncologist, who said that a 30% chance of cancer returning to the same place is the justification for post-surgery radiation. There is thus only a 5% chance that it comes back to the same place in a ten-year span. As you might imagine, he said that the procedure is much better and safer than years ago. Based on a range of patients’ reactions, he listed possible side-effects:
- fatigue for months afterwards
- swelling that is permanent
- skin irritation/itching
- skin-darkening for 6-12 months or permanently
- interior scarring
- ribs under breast fracture years later
- lung under breast affected, may have to be treated
- heart disease years later, though direct causality hasn’t been proved conclusively
- cancer caused by the radiation itself (one in 1/1000) in skin/muscle/bone or lung
(to which I say: LAWDAMASSY)
He says that serious side effects are rare, and stressed instead the symptoms that the surgeon had mentioned weeks ago: fatigue and a sunburn-like ---- (not sure what noun is here: sensation? Scar?)
After my meeting with him, I got something to eat then went back for another appointment with him and two other radiation colleagues. For this meeting I was flat on my back getting cat-scanned. They were measuring and lining and marking me up so that when I have my radiation treatments, they will be as precise as possible. The process included holding and letting out breaths so they could measure distances between breastbone and heart (I think): they are obviously trying to avoid the heart as far as they can, and, as it turns out, each person’s heart and other organs line up differently. Who knew?
This session ended with 4-yes-FOUR needle pricks. Ugh. I think they put in markers (dye? Not sure) for the radiation people to see in the weeks ahead. I may be wrong, though, since one of them was on my right side! (Is LOL appropriate here?)
On Friday September 7, the games begin. That will be my longest day, as they do more measurements, do x-rays, and so on. I will also have my first radiation treatment on that day. The other radiation treatments will be under half an hour (I’ve heard 15 and 20 mins).
In all, I will have 21 treatments, Mondays to Fridays.
16 of them will be to an area covering most of my left breast. These treatments that are broader in scope will have a lower intensity of radiation.
The last 5 treatments will focus on the area of the lumpectomy I had last month. This – the area of greatest risk – will receive focused, strong levels of radiation.
The whole thing is yukky, and I’m in mourning for my breast ...