I’m scheduled to start radiation (30 treatments) in two weeks. Everyone keeps telling me it’s a “piece of cake.” Could you tell me a little more about your experience and give me any advice.
Sometimes advice is a peculiar thing. On one hand I want to calm your fears, but on another, I should be honest. Radiation wasn’t a walk in the park for me. I actually go back and visit people I met in the chemo room and miss the nurses sometimes. I don’t miss anything about radiation accept that I liked my doctor. So the best thing I can do is be honest with you on my experience and tell you what went right and what didn’t go so well.
First, I don’t believe anyone can tell you exactly what it will be like for you. Everyone is radiated differently. I was told it would be “cake” too, and unfortunately it wasn’t. Here is why it wasn’t easy for me. I had inflammatory breast cancer. This meant I had to be radiated from my chin to within an inch of my last rib and then it also wrapped around to my back and my upper back had some radiation as well. This wasn’t cake because I had something like 8 fields they had to line up every day and every week they had to re-measure. Here is a question you can ask your doctor: how many fields will be radiated. I can’t say for certain, but I think most is just one or two depending on if both breasts had cancer or not. Both of mine did….**sigh**.
The first time you go to radiation will take longer. This is because they are measuring where you will be radiated. They will re-measure every week because they have to, just in case you had weight loss/gain, etc. You will have to remain perfectly still. This is why, when you have your mold made you feel 100% comfortable, because you will be stationary in that mold during radiation. My mold was horrible. I must have been in a very awkward position after my mastectomies, because it dug in to me in one arm. And both my arms would go numb. I wasn’t allowed to move or they would have to totally start over…..whatever that meant. All I know is they begged me to stay still. I was in a lot of pain the first time. They couldn’t even finish and I sat there under that huge machine and cried. It was probably one of the saddest moments I remember during treatment.
I dreaded measuring day. But the other days did get better, and most of the time I would be out within an hour. You will lay on a skinny bed and a very large machine will move around you. You won’t feel any of the beams. You probably won’t see any light even. Every other day they may lay something over you. This acts as a layer of skin so your actual top layer of skin gets nice and toasty. That sounds horrible, but I’m pretty sure that’s what it’s for.
The best thing I did during radiation is to MOISTURIZE! I religiously did this every night and every morning. At night I used pure lanolin (you can buy this in the nursing mom’s area of Target called lansinoh or at a health food store). It was super gooey, but I did it right before I went to sleep and then wore an old t-shirt over it. It was mostly absorbed by morning. Then I used aloe after my shower in the morning before radiation because it soaks in very fast. I would also use grape seed oil sometimes at night as well. My radiologist was very surprised I didn’t blister at all. I just got red, and I wasn’t really miserable at all during the treatment. I did start feeling burned in the last week. (I din’t use anything they gave me BTW)
I still have my tan lines. I’m still red a year and a half later. Mainly just a red strip under my breasts for some reason? I fractured a rib a while back most likely because the bones get brittle from radiation. I didn’t even realize it so it must not have been too bad.
I really hope only your breast will be radiated and the fields will be minimal. It will probably be much easier like your friends tell you. But for me, it was hard. I have a hard time saying which was more difficult, chemo or radiation. I cried more, and prayed more for God’s strength during radiation than any other time during my treatment.
I hope that wasn’t miserably honest. I didn’t like radiation very much. The actual treatment experience was far worse than what it did to me, I will say that…..if that makes sense. The laying there, hands over head, etc. I’d really like to tell you it was super easy, but then I wouldn’t be honest. So I decided it would be best to be honest. So I have been. It doesn’t get worse than what I’ve said above. I’m not hiding anything. Hopefully that makes you feel better!
I can say with almost complete certainty that you will make it through. Just not sure I would say it was “cake.”
And here’s the really great thing! You will get through it! It will be like you went on a really great tropical vacation and missed a spot when lathering on the sunblock…only you didn’t. (**sigh**) I joke that they really need to make radiation rooms smell like a tanning salon because it feels like that when you go every day. Maybe a little ambiance like the sound of waves crashing against the beach would help too.
Here are a few links I wrote during radiation: