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Four Weeks Down

ejourneys's picture

Time seems to speed up under radiation, and suddenly I am almost two-thirds of the way through treatment. Chemo had lasted for more than five months, compared to the expected six weeks plus a bit for this phase. In addition, I am in and out of the treatment center in about a half hour (changing into and out of my robe, getting aligned, and the radiation itself), compared with my three- to four-hour chemo sessions (blood work plus consult plus infusion).

Occasionally my time at the radiation facility lasts a bit longer. My chest markings are renewed and regular X-Rays are taken weekly, plus I have weekly consults with my radiation oncologist and LCSW.

My left breast is the one being treated, so I receive intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) to protect my heart. The linear accelerator rotates around me to cover 11 distinct fields. The radiation therapists call alignment numbers to each other as they line up my markings with the machine's crosshairs.

I can close my eyes and count off the fields as I listen to piped-in classic rock. There's a whirr as the apparatus shifts position, then a series of buzzes as the radiation hits various layers of cells. An extended rotation occurs after the seventh field, when the source of the beam dips down to my left and out of my line of sight because my head must remain still. After the eighth field there's a sound like a drawer shutting. It all becomes a predictable pattern.

I am still in no discomfort, but I've been told to start applying moisturizer to my breast now that it has turned a bit more pink (specifically nipple and areola). Both the Curel Intensive Healing cream and Vitamin A&D ointment that I've had at home will work fine. I just need to be sure to apply them after, not before, treatment. I also continue to stay well-hydrated, which is a good thing.

It's hard for me to tell whether the tiredness I feel is a cumulative effect of the radiation or a leftover effect of the chemo. I got out of bed a bit too quickly on Wednesday and discovered that my vertigo from chemo hadn't faded completely. Fortunately, my butt and the bedroom carpet provided a sufficient cushion. This marks the first (and, I hope, only) time that I have fallen since starting treatment. So, I still need to dial my enthusiasm back a bit.

I have now posted the full video (about 24 minutes) of the local cable show I was on with other members of my breast cancer support group. At the most recent support group meeting I learned that self-massage of the irradiated area is a good idea both during and after treatment, especially since the effects of radiation (including, for example, tissue shrinkage) can persist long after treatment has ended.

My hair continues to regrow, one wisp at a time:

Tuesday marked my 330th day of maintenance (I had reached my goal weight about 2-1/2 months prior to diagnosis), which meant another 30-day update on MyFitnessPal. Here's the big picture:

Here's the detailed view:

As I had written in the update, this latest 30-day period includes my lowest weight yet, 5.5 pounds below goal. I'm not actively trying to lose more weight, so I'm monitoring at this point. If I continue to lose, I'll increase my maintenance calories. My body fat caliper measurement on maintenance day 329 showed me at 24.6%, which is considered "lean" for someone my age. My weight has remained fairly steady throughout treatment, with a decreased appetite only at the start of chemo and temporary gains from steroids.

If I read the statement from my insurer correctly, my BRCA test has now been covered. The claim had been under review for weeks. My insurer wanted first-degree relatives, but I have neither siblings nor children, which left only my parents. (My mother died from heart disease and diabetes within three weeks of turning 57.) At the same time, two of my father's relatives had died of HBOC syndrome cancers, and as an Ashkenazi I am in a high-risk group. The main bit of good news is that I tested negative for BRCA mutations, but I am also very glad that the test has been covered.


Pixie Dust's picture

EJ, glad that you are almost there finishing your rads. Seems as if you are doing well considering what you have gone through. Be very careful getting out of bed or standing up to fast because you do not what to fall again and take chances on fracturing a hip or whatever. Happy you are almost finished and doing well.Smile (HUGS)  Pixie

ejourneys's picture

Almost in the home stretch!  Thanks again -- wishing a Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.  (((Hugs))) and Smile

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