Happiness is…finding out that I only have five weeks of treatments instead of six. Which translates into 25 treatments on business days (I get Labor Day off) instead of the 30 I was originally told I would have. For those of you not familiar with radiation, this is localized and only treats the area where cancer was found. In my case, the cancerous tumors were found in my right breast and in three lymph nodes including the sentinel lymph node (the “first” in that group of lymph nodes).
On Friday, August 15th, I met with my radiation oncologist. He and I visited for a few minutes in one of the patient rooms. I asked questions about anti-oxidants and what to expect during the treatments. Regarding anti-oxidants, I can eat fresh fruits and veggies. I cannot take anti-oxidant supplements. Regarding what to expect, I won’t feel anything during the treatments but the effects will accumulate as the days/weeks pass and I will begin to feel more and more tired and my skin will become less elastic and damaged like having a sunburn. Unlike a sunburn, my skin will stay tight forever where it has been treated. When I start to feel the effects of the radiation, I am to ask the nurses for creams to treat the affected areas.
Once our conversation ended, I put on one of their lovely hospital gowns and waited to be taken back for a CT scan. The machine is smaller and open ended so it wasn’t as scary as the MRI. Plus, I was able to keep my wig on and most of my clothes including my shoes. They put a thick elastic band around my toes so they stuck together. I’m not sure why. The machine is not nearly as loud as the MRI so I didn’t need to have ear plugs.
They marked with a Sharpie places on my body that were key to lining me up for my radiation treatments. The doctor and lasers identified these locations. Then they started the machine after they all left the room. I moved in and out and in and out and in and out. Then they came back into the room and proceeded to mark the “line up” locations with ink and a needle (aka tattoos). I have six tiny permanent dots that will line me up each day for the treatments.
The rest of the appointment consisted of a walk-through of what I will do each appointment going forward. This includes checking myself in through a touch screen, changing and then waiting in a waiting room to be called back for the treatment. Each appointment should take no more than 20 minutes.
On Friday, August 22nd, I am scheduled for a dry-run of the process. They may or may not do a treatment at this time. According to my oncologist, they don’t start treatments on Fridays. So, it’s very likely a treatment will not occur until Monday, August 25th.
I’m having a little anxiety about this part of the process because I know that the outcome of it will determine which surgery I will have for the reconstruction step of the process. But, I know that everything will be ok.