As you may know from some of my posts, my mammogram this year showed DCIS (Ductal Cancer In Situ). What this means is that the cancer cells are encapsulated in or around the milk ducts in the breast, so they don’t go anywhere or spread. If you are going to have a cancer, this is the one to have as it is pretty easily treated.
If you too are facing this, please know that there are hundreds of thousands of us soldiering on with it. The advances made in breast cancer is phenomenal!
In my case, this is the second round; I had it first in 2015, and had a lumpectomy (which always sounds to me like they take a melon baller and just scoop out the bad bits. Thankfully, this is not so). This time I had another lumpectomy, and, just to be sure, I am following up with radiation and after that, Tamoxifan.
Now that I am healed up from the surgery, I just began radiation. I am only one week into it, and the newest protocols say that 20 sessions are plenty (it used to be 33). So that’s a good thing.
So, if you are curious, this is how “radiation nation” goes:
- You will first have a “radiation rehearsal.” This means that the nurses will take you into the radiation area, and get you set up on the table (which is surprisingly comfortable).
- They will make a few tiny dots with a felt marker so that they can pinpoint the beam to the right area.
- If they have to move you down or sideways on the table, they will ask you to just “lie heavy,” which means don’t move; let them do all the shifting around.
- They will explain how the radiation is directed to the area that needs it, and, depending on how much needs to be done, give you a time estimate. For me, it turned out to be only about 2-3 minutes. Easy-peasy.
- When you go in for the real deal, you will be met with wonderful and kind nurses who will answer any question and keep you as comfortable as possible. They are great at telling you all the details of what you can expect.
- When you go for your first radiation treatment, just relax into the table and close your eyes. Personally, what I see behind my eye lids is a gorgeous red when the radiation begins. When it’s over, I see a beautiful turquoise color.
The nurses and your doctor will keep you up to speed on what to expect. Some people become tired post-radiation, some don’t. Some will feel sensitive in the radiation-focused area, some don’t. Should your skin become sensitive, let the nurses know and they will suggest various lotions to try out (BTW, they will give you literature on this). For me, Eucerine works fine, and a little goes a long way.
After I get home if I find that I am tired, I lie down and rest for a bit and/or read a book or watch TV. In my opinion, I look at radiation this way: it’s a tool that fights the cancer for you. In my head I feel that the radiation is sending me soft and warm healing light. If you go into this with the idea that you are going to receive something good, something healing and helpful, you will feel much more relaxed.
You may also wish to consider a support group during this time; it’s up to you. You can ask at the hospital if they have such a group, or if not, they can tell you where you can find one. I am finding that I am meeting a few very nice people who are also undergoing radiation, and we enjoy chatting with each other. In this battle, we are the warriors whose weapons are our medical staff, radiation and our loved ones.
Keep positive, be informed, ask questions, and be prepared, not scared. Please know that you are not alone. We are with you in mind and spirit, and we will get through this together.