Next Step: Radiation

IMG_4788Chemo is DONE!!!!!!!!

I’m excited that it’s done, but the effects of it will be long lasting. Even a week out I’m still feeling really crappy. My oncologist told me that the fatigue will last months as well. Cancer is holding on to my neck and won’t let go!

So for the next few days I will be resting at home and trying to get some sleep. My insomnia started right on cue, like the rest of my other chemo side effects. I’m going to write a blog about chemo side effects because I get a lot of questions about them.

Today I met with my radiation oncologist to figure out what the plan is for my radiation treatment. Unlike chemotherapy that treats the entire body, this is a localized therapy. Since the doctors believe that they got the entire tumor out during my lumpectomy, chemo and radiation are being used as preventative measures to decrease the chance of reoccurrence.

Cancer cells grow and divide faster than most normal cells. Radiation works by making small breaks in the DNA inside cells. These breaks keep cancer cells from growing and dividing and cause them to die. Nearby normal cells can also be affected by radiation, but most recover and go back to working the way they should. When the damaged cells die, they are broken down and eliminated by the body’s natural processes.

I had a CT scan today to simulate what my treatment would be like and gather images. The imaging scans showed the location of where my tumor was and the normal areas around it. The scans also helped the doctor mark where they will line up the radiation machine when I really start getting treatment. It is necessary to ensure that I will be in the exact same position every day relative to the machine delivering the treatment. I have a body mold that I will use to get my body in the right position and to help the radiation avoid my heart and lungs. I was also given four small tattoos that will be used to help with precise positioning. FREE TATS!!! 😉

The actual treatment will only last about 10 minutes, but it will be every day, five days a week. The number of treatments is still up in the air. When I had my lumpectomy, I was injected with a dye to show the doctor where the cancer was. One of the things that the dye traveled to was a lymph node behind my breast bone. In a perfect world this would have been removed during surgery, but the it would have made my simple lumpectomy a lot more complicated, so the doctor will try to take care of it with radiation. My radiation oncologist needs to look at the scans that I took today and see if he can reach it without damaging my heart and lungs. If he can reach it, I will probably have 30 treatments, if not, I will likely have 16. That means that I will be going in for either six weeks or three weeks, every damn day.

So, more waiting… Oh, I almost forgot–Thank you to my co-workers Margo and Katherine for coming to keep me company during my last chemo treatment! It was very sweet of them to come hang out with the sick girl and I appreciated it.

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