Today marks my 18th radiation treatment. That means I have ten left. Ten more times where I get eleven doses of radiation. The radiation targets my supraclavicular lymph nodes, the lymph nodes and area under my arm, my chest wall, and the intramammary lymph node chain. Draw a line from my collarbone to my left armpit, down my left side to the middle of my rib cage, across the rib cage to my sternum, and up my sternum to my collarbone, and you have the rectangle of radiation.
My radiation therapists are really great people. There are three of them, and they do everything they can to make me comfortable and for the process to be quick. It’s not easy though. I get a CT everyday. I get an xray everyday. Then, when they’re satisfied everything is in the right place, they place this stretchy, solid gel like sheet on the side being radiated. It’s to increase the radiation going into the chest wall, the lymph nodes and area under my arm, and the intramammary chain. They don’t use it on the supraclavicular. I asked why and was told those nodes are closer to the surface.
Consequently, the gel sheet thing increases the likelihood of radiation reactions. My radiation oncologist is watching my skin carefully. My skin under my arm is pink and turning red. The skin along my sternum has broken out into what looks like little spots of acne, but they’re really a radiation rash, according to Dr. D. It was the first radiation reaction I had…the rash popped up before my skin began changing colors. The skin underneath my tissue expander has turned a dark tan, and I noticed on Saturday, there is a blister forming there, which I was going to have Dr. D look at today because it freaked me out (shout out and thanks to my scumbag brain: WHAT IF THAT’S A SKIN MET?), but he was in a simulation and mapping session. Two of the radiation therapists looked at it and agreed they’re radiation blisters and said my skin is following a normal progression of damage. They told me to expect the skin under my arm to become very tender and sore over the next few days, to watch the blisters, and to wear shirts that will not cause more friction on my skin and to be aware of how I’m holding my left arm. They recommended I wear loose fitting cotton shirts.
In many ways, radiation has been easier than chemo. I’m tired, but I’m no more tired than I was with chemo. I’m just over having to go every single week day. I’m not in pain (yet) like I experienced with chemo (the skin reactions…the muscle aches). But, still, it’s not fun. It’s exhausting, and it’s one more hill to climb on this stupid roller coaster.
Treatments 1-18 have gone quickly. I just hope the next ten go just as quickly. I’m ready for this to be over. I’m ready to move on. And, yet, at the same time I’m terrified of it being over and of moving on. If this is keeping my cancer at bay, what if stopping makes it come back or lets it come back? That’s my fear.
And, I don’t know I’ll ever get over it.