Today was my first day of radiation. I went through a trial run yesterday, where they lined me up in the machine and basically shot laser blanks at me just to make sure everything ran smoothly. (Positioning is key in radiation because they only want to zap the areas where my breasts and infected lymph nodes were; they don’t want to zap surrounding areas [like my lungs or my ribs] because radiation has its risks, so they don’t want to potentially damage areas that weren’t even impacted by cancer cells.) Today, though, i actually got zapped for the first time, and let me tell you this: radiation is a piece of goddamned cake compared to chemotherapy:
- It actually took me more time to change in and out of that pink dressing gown than it did to go through the radiation treatment itself. In and out in 40 minutes, compared to sitting for 6 hours and getting injected with 7 bags of medications? Yes, please!
- I got to wear this fancy little gold lame (luh-MAY) number on my chest. I felt like a drag queen, all tooted up before a performance. Apparently, i will wear this for every *other* session; it affects how deeply the radiation beams penetrate into my skin. If i ever bring someone with me to radiation, i am going to have them take a picture of this, since i can’t seem to find an image anywhere on the Internet.
- Radiation only lasts until June 13 – six weeks of this, compared to four months of chemo. I was initially told i would probably have to go for seven weeks. I don’t know what changed for the doctors to decide that six weeks was sufficient, and i’m not going to ask.
- Side effects won’t happen for weeks! Sure, i’ll experience light doses of fatigue right around the time when the fatigue from chemotherapy really starts to fade. Sure, i’ll have a sunburn so severe that it will actually creep up my neck and penetrate all the way through to my right shoulder blade. Sure, my right breast and arm are going to swell, and i am going to suddenly find myself dealing with some intense sore throat that won’t seem to go away. But none of this is going to happen until somewhere around the end of the 2nd week or the beginning of the 3rd. Considering i just went through five months of never-ending side effects that just piled one on top of the other, having a couple weeks off from side effects is truly appreciated.
There was one side effect mentioned on the AZ Center for Cancer Care’s website that made me chuckle:
C’mon folks. I mean, i know there are physical changes that come along with radiation, but they just seem a little … insignificant, compared to the rest of my treatment. I mean, six months ago i had my boobs hacked off. Surgery left me with long scars, hollowed out nipples, Tupperware containers for breasts that split open and created more scars, asymmetrical “boobs,” and two nipples darting off in their own directions. Chemotherapy left me with a bald head, patchy eyelashes and eyebrows, a drastic decrease in muscle mass, dry and shriveled up skin that is extremely pale after being on strict restriction from the sun and the tanning beds, and about 60% of my booty missing. I’m pretty sure that surgery and chemo changed my body self-image, and i can’t imagine radiation having any life-changing impact on something that has already been completely knocked to the ground and kicked while it’s down. Furthermore, why the hell would i want this new-and-NOT-improved body to be more “held and comforted during this time?” Um… no thank you … don’t touch me … don’t look at me … yeah, maybe we can have sex, as long as the lights are off … stop looking at me … seriously, don’t touch me … you can embrace me and focus on me in about eight more months, after treatment is over, my implants are in, my scars have faded, and i’ve reunited myself with L.A. Fitness.
Yes, i know: “improving body image” will definitely be on my to-do list once treatment is over.