Radiation Dry Run

June 22, 2018

I had the radiation dry run this morning. One of the things that came out of the conversation with the nurse before I went in is how forthright the Radiation Oncologist (RO) is with her patients. I really appreciate that she will tell me like it is. I’m not a fan of the dancing around I am feeling like I’ve gotten from the other two docs lately.

Because my RO has been very honest and direct about what she’s seeing and what she can do with the disease that’s left, I felt really overwhelmed by the whole thing for the 2nd, or maybe 3rd, time since I started this journey. I’ve been holding onto a lot of anxiety over the radiation in the first place. It all became too much within the space of 5 minutes.

Unlike chemo, they don’t do radiation treatments on holidays. I was a little surprised. I asked about what happens if I need to get away and wouldn’t be in town. Of course, they don’t want me to take any days off on my own. I’m not really thinking too hard about doing that, but I want the option to have a life in the middle of all this. So, officially, any missed days are tacked on at the end, just like chemo.

When the Radiation Techs (RTs) were ready for me, I got into a gown and they took me to the room where the treatment would be done. This table was more uncomfortable to lie on than the one I was on last week for the CT scans. This wasn’t a good thing because I had to be there and lying still for about an hour. I could feel my neck and shoulder blade griping not long after I got on the table. I did my best to relax my left arm – it kept twitching and the pinch in my shoulder blade just kept getting worse. I asked several times about how much longer it would be or if I could have a break and no one answered despite being told that they could see and hear me the whole time. That didn’t make me too awfully happy. They came in to adjust the machine a couple of times and I let them know then that I couldn’t keep my left arm above my head for much longer. I was nearly at a point of tears by the time we were finished. I’ve already made a note to get to the chiropractor next week the night before the PET scan.

It gets cold lying on the table, and I have zero ability to judge time after getting in the room. I couldn’t see a clock and couldn’t read the computer screens with the radiation plans on them, either. They had me do some deep breaths, which are done to inflate my lungs and move my heart out of the field of radiation, and took a bunch of x-rays to verify their planning. After a little while, one of the techs came in and made some markings on my chest. They had me do more cycles of deep and regular breaths before coming back in to add more markings. At the end, I got a 5th tattoo. This one is on the top of my breast. I don’t know what these markings are for. They sure look weird.

After I was done, she handed me some alcohol wipes to get the Sharpie marker off. I at first thought I’d wait to get home. Then I saw that it was visible out the top of my shirt, so I took enough of it off so that no one would see it just looking at me. They also gave me my 6 week radiation schedule. I’ll have to have them make a few changes to accommodate the maintenance chemo appointments. If I had more than 4 conflicts, this would be a real pain in the ass. The place that I’m getting the radiation treatments isn’t The Hospital. It’s an affiliated partner facility. They’re not on the same scheduling system as downtown.

I am hoping that the time passes quickly for this treatment. My last treatment will be Monday, August 6th. My 35th class reunion falls during the last week of treatment. I’m going to have to skip it this year. It will be the first one I’ve missed and I feel a little sad. I don’t know what to expect, and I don’t know how I’m going to feel. On top of that, I wouldn’t be able to spend as much time as I’d like catching up with family and other friends while in town because I can’t take more than 1 day out of treatment to live my life.

This is the part of cancer that really sucks. So much of life gets lost during the year of treatments. I’ve been doing this for 7 months already. It’s wearing thin. Either there isn’t a way to fit things in, or the side effects keep us from attending or enjoying life events with family and friends. Quality of Life issues need to be addressed by the oncological community.

About Pink Ribbon Road

This blog is about receiving and living with a breast cancer diagnosis.
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