(by Susan, diagnosed with a recurrence of inflammatory or infiltrating breast cancer and locoregional metastasis in March 2010.)
18 radiation treatments down, 17 to go.
I’ve committed to treating this part of treatment as no big deal, just part of my morning routine, but the truth is, it makes me tired. big time. I can still get out and about once a day, if I rest, but I am so tired afterwards.
My chest is turning red as well, slowly, so slowly, as if I were out in the sun on a summer day at the beach — but then I keep going back and doing it again! Every. Day.
I want to show you a picture of what it looks like inside the treatment room, and on my chest, but I’m sure I’d run into decency laws along the way, so I won’t. if you’re curious, though, here’s how it is for me.
Radiation treatments are always carefully planned and targeted so that the tumor is attacked but the lungs and heart are, mostly, spared. (You do have to watch that, though — a woman I volunteer with through the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network told me yesterday about the damage to her heart she sustained during radiation, called pericarditis, that will trouble her forever.). Although some women have spot radiation, the area, in my case, is large. How large? Hmmm.
Imagine yourself standing in front of a full-length mirror. Yes, naked. Sorry about that. Put your finger on the little bone in the middle of your chest, between your ribs and under your sternum. Yep, the zyphoid process. (Don’t say I never taught you anything!). Move your hand one inch to the left. Now, take a tape measure and stretch it from this spot in the center of your chest under your breasts if you have ‘em, and stretch it around under your arm and to the back. Nine inches. Make a little mark here. Sure, with Sharpie. The radiation techs dot me with Sharpie every day, so it’s probably not a carcinogen.
Then go back to that funny little bone called the ziphoid process and stretch the measuring tape up towards the neck seven inches. You probably don’t want to mark this one with a Sharpie, as it would show like mine do above the neckline of my tops.
That’s the area I get radiated each day. 9 inches by seven inches, front and center, under the armpit, and around the back.
It burns clear through.
I know this, now, because my back is red and blistering, burned as badly as my front. I was surprised by this, as it didn’t happen last time, until my radiation oncologist said, “Well, Susan, the radiation is 6 to 10 million volts.”
So my front and back are somewhat red, with blisters on the back, and deep red crinkly skin under my armpits, which are thoroughly blasted from four different angles.
It’s not that bad, but it is something.
Crossposted at Toddler Planet.