Sunday, August 11, 2013

Radiation Update

Two weeks of radiation are in the books. I thought that I would provide an update on how things are going. 

First, you must know that radiation is the SAME EVERY DAY. Don't expect a bunch of updates here over the next several weeks because it is basically just Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Mind-numbing and boring. If you want to know what radiation is like on a day to day basis, see my previous post here.

For those that forgot, really is every day, 5 days/week. Two weeks down, 5+ more to go. (Somehow I get a partial extra week and I'm not sure how or why. I guess it's because I'm just an overachiever as we've previously discussed here). Here is what I know and how I feel after the 10th treatment:

Compared to chemo, which had an on-time percentage of ZERO, radiation runs 90% on-time. This is quite cool, and I am quickly getting spoiled. And on-time means ON-TIME! You had better be there and dressed in the super-cool (yes, that's sarcasm) gown 3 minutes before your scheduled appointment. For example, for an 11:00am appointment, I come rolling into the facility at 10:53am, do a quick change performance in the dressing room a la Superman in a phonebooth, and sit in the waiting room awaiting my appointment. Usually, my butt has just grazed the chair when the tech comes and calls my name. Then it's off to the "warning: high doses of radiation in this area" room for treatment. 

The techs are GREAT! There are 3 women that rotate in, and there are always 2 of them with me. They are my new friends. There's also a student (not like teenager student...he's probably in his mid-20s). They asked me on day 3 if I minded if he was a part of the treatments so he could learn. Since he was not required to stick sharp needles into my spine that might paralyze me (something I wouldn't let the intern do when I was giving birth), I said, "why not?!"

Treatment time varies from 12 minutes (the fastest so far) to 29 minutes (the longest time spent splayed out on the table). I've had chauffeurs taking me each day, really just to keep me company. Teenage boy child wants it noted that he's had to put in 2 shifts out of 10, and feels that's as much Angry Birds as he can possibly sit and play. Usually, my wonderful drivers hang out and have a coffee, read a book, check their email, and stare at the beautiful waterfalls (that my insurance company must be paying for, so I'm glad someone gets to enjoy it).

HOWEVER, just when I was getting used to "definitely being out of there" in under 30 minutes, start to finish, I hit "Take Your Grandparent To Radiation" day this week. Again, nothing against the elderly (and I mean those in the 80+ year old category), and I saw A LOT of grandmas and grandpas while I went through chemo, and I feel horrible that all these years on Earth have not earned them a break from dealing with cancer, but everything just seems to S...L...O...W   D...O...W...N when the walker/wheelchair/rolling bed crowd descend. And I'm okay with it, and I did not ask to jump ahead because I could "go quicker" (although I really wanted to). I am happy to just wait and read my book (I still carry one everywhere, just in case). But my 2:00pm appointment that day didn't start until like 2:45pm, so they ruined their on-time percentage.

How do I feel as I'm about to start the 3rd week of treatments?

The fatigue has started to set in. I took a nap after treatment on Monday and Thursday of this past week. Big naps...I think one was 3 hours. 

I'm having trouble breathing (and my husband thinks it's crazy that I haven't brought it up to the doctor yet). Not all the time, but I can definitely feel some shortness of breath, and it comes and goes. Like in the shower on Friday when I thought I was going to die and had to sit down. Am so used to this from chemo though. But yeah, he's right...I probably shouldn't ignore this since my heart and lungs are so close to the treatment area.

I can feel the area they are radiating. And it's not just the 3-4 "spots" that they are targeting. It is the entire area that the doctor originally marked on my chest with a Sharpie. Kind of a funky rectangle from sternum to armpit, collarbone to below my breast on my left side. There are random shooting pains deep down, similar to what happened after each of my surgeries, so I recognized what the nurse was talking about when she was trying to describe what to expect. Yep, been there, done that. 

My skin is starting to look sunburned, especially in my armpit. Terrific. Feels great. You know that feeling when you take a hot shower after getting too much sun at the beach? Yep! That's how I felt starting yesterday. Oh goodie. (FYI, have been warned that this "coloration" could be permanent, and anywhere from red to tan. Or it may just never know). And the best part? It's not just burning the skin that you can see. It's like they are giving 2nd and 3rd degree burns way down deep, through all the tissue. 

Going to the hospital every day SUCKS. Don't you think I've earned my own parking spot at this point?? I sure do!!

And a few things of note that are probably residual chemo effects, because it is the gift that just keeps giving. This week my feet went back to being more numb than normal. Just when I thought we had hit a level I could live with. And my hands HURT...shooting pains in my fingertips, and even less hand strength than usual. And I thought it was impossible to get lower than zero, but I guess not. Joint pain all over, especially in my shoulders. All of these were so bad this week that I think one of the really long naps could be contributed to my hope to sleep off these symptoms (no such luck).

So yes, basically it's just one big party here. I did get out and about a couple of times this week, to a movie with friends, and the Harry Connick Jr. concert last night. Nice to have that fun...hoping there are more good days than bad days moving forward. Fingers crossed!

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