Today marks the day i officially completed my 5th week of radiation. Five weeks down; one week left. The center of my chest has a slight, pimply looking rash. The right side is a deep purplish red, to the point where it looks less like a sunburn and more like an incident of intimate partner violence. At times throughout the day, i can feel my right “breast” tightening, so much so that if i could get away with going to the bathroom and ripping my bra off for the rest of my workday, i would do it. (Wouldn’t that be fun to explain to security during a sudden facility-wide search….) At other times, i feel this sharp, stabbing feeling in that area, which Dr. Patel assured me was expected at this point in my treatment.
I’m not complaining. None of this compares to chemotherapy. I will gladly take rashes, sunburn, shooting pains, dry skin, fatigue, and vertigo over the four months of chemo-hell – where every day was a new variety of symptoms, and the body weakness was so bad that i sometimes didn’t even bother to get out of bed until i was worried i might pee myself.
Plus, my hair is growing back. I see it. It’s not coming back in blonde, which fascinates me. No blonde – just a mixture of browns, whites, and grays. Lots of whites and grays. Last month, it was growing back in patches, but now there is this evenness to it all. It’s encouraging. Unfortunately, with *that* hair regrowth comes the hair regrowth all over the body … but again, i’m not complaining. I genuinely miss my eyebrows.
When i was at chemotherapy last week, I asked my nurse, Jen, why i have to wait a month after radiation ends before getting a PET scan (which will show how much progress we’ve made in eliminating my cancer). Her explanation made sense: Since i’m getting radiation treatments, there is radiation inside my body, and that radiation will light up all over the place if i get a PET scan right away. For this reason, the doctors have to wait long enough for all the radiation to leave my body; otherwise, my PET scan will show a false positive, which are results that say i test positive for something that i don’t really have (e.g. a drug test coming back and saying i tested positive for heroin/opiates, when really it was just some poppy seeds i ate on my bagel earlier that morning). All in all, it appears that i will soon have a temporary reprieve from doctors’ visits and medical appointments after radiation is over. It’s strange to think about. Since October 28, i have had a total of 112 medical appointments – an average of 3.5 appointments each week. After radiation, though, i only have 2 medical appointments for the rest of June … then nothing until the PET scan in late July.
I just cried for a moment. When i stop running my brain and my body long enough, i can finally see the finish line in the distance. My medical marathon is in the home stretch.