Radiation is going great so far. 11 treatments down, 23 more to go!
I frequently get asked questions about radiation. It seems a bit more mysterious than chemotherapy, and not as many people understand it. I had no idea what to expect!
This post is to uncover some of the mystery behind radiation treatments. Of course, I can only speak on my experience of chest/breast radiation for breast cancer. I figured I would share a little about what it’s like on this post – both to educate you, the reader, and also to help someone who is going through cancer who may stumble upon this blog (or you may forward this to friends you know who have radiation in their future!)
First – what is radiation and why radiation?
Mayo clinic says: Radiation therapy for breast cancer uses high-powered X-rays to kill cancer cells. Rapidly growing cells, such as cancer cells, are more susceptible to the effects of radiation therapy than are normal cells. Radiation therapy may be used to treat breast cancer at almost every stage. It’s an effective way to reduce your risk of breast cancer recurring after surgery. It can also help control the spread of breast cancer .
I will have 34 total treatments. I go every weekday, Monday through Friday. My radiation treatments take place in the North Tower of Lexington Medical Center and my appointment time is 9:30 which works well with my schedule. After getting the three children off to school (Samuel and Selah in Kindergarten and Hannah in preschool), I make the 30-40 min drive to LMC.
Daily, I enter the radiation oncology area at LMC, and check in by entering my last 4 digits of my SSN into a computer.
I go straight back to the female locker room and exchange my shirt for my beautiful (haha) pink gown. Then I go sit in the female waiting area. This is my favorite part, because I get to connect with other women who are going through radiation. It’s a special sisterhood – as we all sit there in our pink gowns.
I get to see mostly the same women each day, and we always catch up on how we’re doing, how many treatments we have left. I usually only have to wait here 5-10 minutes at the most.
Then, it’s my turn. One of the technicians comes to get me, and I follow her into the room with the radiation machine. I take my right arm out of my gown, lay on a table with my arms above me, head turned to the left, and the technicians make adjustments. The machine is a big cream/grey machine that rotates all around me. I must lie perfectly still. I cannot feel anything, other than sometimes my right arm gets very sore in that position (they say it is due to the lymph node surgery on that side).
I’m usually only on the table 15-20 minutes. I have come to really love the technicians also, as I usually see the same ones daily. One in particualar I have connected with over our mutual love for New York City!
After my treatment is over, I go change back into my clothes, and apply a prescribed steroid cream over the treated area, that is supposed to help prevent burning.
As I make my way back to my car, I thank God for another one down and jump back into “life as usual”. Ministry/work, pick up children from school, homework, family time, dinner, bedtime!
The side effects of radiation are most commonly fatigue and skin burns. I have been struggling with fatigue since before radiation but thankfully I have not noticed that it is any worse since starting these treatments. My skin is holding up well so far. The side effects are cumulative, so I continue to pray that they will be minimal.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask! As you probably know by now, I’m pretty open to talking about any of my experiences.
I am so grateful for your prayers. Please pray that the side effects would be minimal as I continue in these treatments. Please continue to pray for “divine appointments” at my treatments. And finally I could use prayers for balance in my life as I’m feeling very stretched thin in many areas these days, as radiation takes up about 2 hours each day (considering drive time).
I’m thankful that God continues to mold me, shape me, and refine me through this journey. He has truly carried me.
Yesterday in church, our pastor referenced James 1:2-3 “ Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”
He said “you don’t count it joy because of the trial, but because of what the trial is doing”. I think I even said “Amen” aloud because that is what this is all about!
His grace abounds through cancer…
through chemotherapy, hair loss, loss of strenth, surgery, another surgery, radiation, and everything in between…His grace abounds because this trial, this testing is DOING SOMETHING. The pain has a purpose. That, my friends, gets me excited. (What the trial is doing, not the trial itself).
So whatever you’re going through today, remember that there’s a God who cares, and He can give you hope in the hard.
If you know someone with a recent cancer diagnosis who is facing radiation treatments, maybe this post could help shed some light on what it’s like.