Radiation Time!

So the chemo was over.  That is supposed to be the worst right?  Smooth sailing from here.  At least I wouldn’t have to worry about the systemic affects anymore of chemo, or have to take prednisone and all those pills.  My hair could then start growing back I hope!  I went in for a radiation prep visit that took a few hours.  They had to look at my previous scans, and then plan a field of radiation.  The plan was to radiate the lymph nodes on the left side around my collar bone and then in the left axilla where my tumor started.  Since it was so big at diagnosis they felt radiation would be necessary to kill anything that chemo didn’t take care of. Kind of like an insurance plan.  At the time I thought radiation was kinda cool, not to get radiated but the process of figuring it all out.  They had to make this mold of me laying a certain way, so my arms would be positioned the same every time.  Then they made these lead blocks that go in the machine above you to catch any radiation scatter to protect my other tissues.  Since I was young, they made my blocks longer to capture more scatter.  Then I got tattooed!  lol, they made three dark blue spots, one in the center of my chest, and two more on the left side and one on my upper arm.  They used these to line everything up for my treatments.  Once they had everything ready, then I had everything scheduled.  Radiation is different in chemo in that you go monday through friday, have the weekends off and then repeat.  They figure out a total dose of radiation that is effective for treatment but not too much that those tissues can’t handle and permanently die. :/.  Then they break it up in to fractions every day, so my radiation was going to be 5 and a half weeks long. The main side effects that I would get would be a sunburn effect on the skin and being tired.  Long term, radiation can actually cause cancer, so the need to be diligent going forward. One concern was that my left breast was going to be near the radiation field so they ended up using tape to tape it over out of the way as much as possible.  That was interesting!  As I was going to radiation I started feeling pretty good.  I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, and going back to school would be coming soon.  I was expected to finish in May.  Yay!  Was so ready to feel like a normal person again and be done with this chapter!  I was still able to go to austin quite a bit to visit friends especially since radiation was much easier.  The first two weeks it didn’t even seem like anything was happening.  You go in, get in a gown, they put you in your mold, lay on this giant machine, tape the boob over, then they exit left.  that part kinda sucks b/c you realize whats happening.  They don’t want radiation exposure b/c it causes cancer.    Trying to not think about that you just have to lay there and they can see and talk to you during the process.  It didn’t take but a few minutes but the machine is above you delivering radiation the the area they outlined, and then it spins and hits you from underneath.  it makes a very quiet buzzing sound, and then you are done.  After a couple weeks I did start noticing a sunburn effect.  This got worse and worse and the area under my armpit was the most painful b/c the skin rubs there, so that skin was starting to slough off and cause discomfort.  I was able to finish all my treatments on time though.  When I was done I got my graduation pin!  Everyone knew me b/c I always wore my UT hat with my wig hair!  It was such a great feeling to be done with that!  There was also a feeling of fear about the unknown.  What would happen next?  How much life is this going to shave off of my time here on earth?  What if it comes back?  What if I get another cancer?  Am I going to have some bad side effects from all this that last forever?  Can I have children later?  They just keep coming at different points in your life.  My immediate question was can I get this port out?  I hated that thing.  All of this transformed me from a stomach sleeper to a back sleeper.  I also picked up a habit of having to go pee in the middle of the night. lol, oh well.  Normally they make you keep the port in for a while I guess to make sure the cancer does not return right away and they need it, but my oncologist agreed to let me take it out since he knew I was returning to school.  I had another surgery scheduled to get the port removed and in the same week I was scheduled to get my wisdom teeth out!  That was kinda crazy but both needed to be done.  After that port came out, I felt more like myself again.  Those constant reminders of chemo and cancer were getting less!