August 23, 2018
Finally done. I finished the boost week of radiation today. As of today, I’ve had 7-1/2 weeks of radiation total. My skin is pink like I have a decent sunburn. There is still a spot on my collar bone on my right side that is more burned than the rest of my chest. The nurse and I were concerned that it was going to open up over the weekend. I’ve been keeping it well moisturized and covered with Mepilex. Monday morning, it was starting to heal, thankfully. I wasn’t looking forward to using Silvadene on it. Silvadene permanently stains anything it touches. I don’t have a lot of clothes that I don’t care at all about, and certainly none that I could wear to work.
I tried taking video of my final two radiation treatments. This is one of those lessons learned moments. I would love to have a Go Pro camera but I didn’t want to spend that much on having one. Mostly because I am not big on video and it seemed like a lot of money for something I wouldn’t use every day. So, during Amazon’s Prime Day, there was a cheap little dash cam that was about $50. I bought one. Unsurprisingly, it’s not everything I’ve dreamed of. Nor is the little waterproof video camera I bought last year. I couldn’t get the dash cam to format its memory card much less do anything else. I got the other camera configured, but its controls were really clunky. We taped the 4K camera to the radiation machine, but it wasn’t set to record, and we couldn’t tell that before starting the radiation program. I also tried to use my phone to take video from where my head rests so that you could see what I saw every day. All I got was a picture of the towel under my arm and some muffled audio. Dammit.
After I was finished and changed back into my clothes, the nurse went over my discharge paperwork. This is a form I’m going to need to hang onto in case I ever need surgery or other radiation treatment to any part of my chest ever again. It tells me how many grays (Gy) of radiation I’ve received for each part of the radiation plans and for how long. Grays are measurements of energy like volts or kilowatts. Any future radiation oncologist will need to know this because there is a maximum amount of radiation dose you can have in a lifetime. Surgeons will need to know because the tissue that was radiated will heal differently than tissue that wasn’t. What this generally means for me is that if I have a cancer recurrence in the same breast, or in the radiated half of the other side, I will likely have to have a full mastectomy and reconstruction both due to not being able to re-radiate that same tissue and that it won’t heal the same a second time.
When we were done with the discharge paperwork she wanted me to “ring out” of treatment. The hard part is that I’m not really done. For most other women who’ve had chemo, a lumpectomy or mastectomy, and radiation, they’re done when radiation is done. They’re declared “cancer-free.” I’m not there yet. I still have a chemo treatment left, and I won’t know if any of this worked and I’m cancer-free until November or December.