One type of energy I’m talking about comes through radiation therapy. I decided to continue that after asking my surgeon his opinion. He looked at the pathology report again and said that the margins from my surgery weren’t large enough to forgo radiation, and that if I were his family member, he’d definitely recommend finishing radiation treatments. While I’d sure like to be through with these cancer treatments, when a doctor who has dealt with lots of breast cancer cases tells me that I should continue with radiation, I’ll follow his advice.
I called my radiation oncologist after I saw my surgeon on Tuesday and discussed what the surgeon said, and we decided that I should continue radiation. So he got his office to schedule a CT scan for a new radiation plan. I had the CT scan on Wednesday morning. This is the machine set up for my scan. The mold (for my head, neck, and arm) you see there is the one I have for radiation, too. The technicians slid me in and out of the tube and ran some energy in the form of x-rays through me to get pictures and information so that I can be irradiated properly. After my record-setting aspiration the week before, my breast was much smaller, and the previous plan didn’t match. I got the CT scan and then an appointment for the next morning to resume radiation. This photo is a little blurry because just as I was taking it, two more people came into the room. While it only took two people for my first CT scan, this one took four. I’m not sure why. I’d prefer it if everyone in the room would introduce him or herself so I know why everyone is there. I think sometimes medical people forget that they’re dealing with other people instead of just bodies.
My radiation therapy started the next day, on Thursday. My radiation therapists are good at treating me like a person and not just a body, and I do appreciate that. This is the radiation machine all set up for me. The machine rotates so that my breast and the area right around it are irradiated – and so that it doesn’t irradiate more of my body. It goes to my right side first and sends radiation across my breast two times. Then the machine rotates down low on my left side to give me two more doses. My left arm is above my head (as you can tell, the mold helps me hold in in the correct place) to make that easier. There is a higher-pitched dose then a lower-pitched one – on each side. If I had perfect pitch, I could tell you what note each irradiation is. But I don’t. The whole process takes less than five minutes, and I think the total radiation time is about a minute. Then I’m up and out and on my way.
This is a close-up of my radiation mold. When I am irradiated, I have my left arm up over my head, and my right arm is down by my side. The radiation bench I lie on is pretty narrow, so it’s handy to have pockets to put my hand in to steady my arm. My neck rests on the indentation in the lower center. It could be a relaxing position if it weren’t for my awareness of radiation running into my body.
This is how radiation works, according to Breastcancer.org.
“Radiation therapy uses a special kind of high-energy beam to damage cancer cells. (Other types of energy beams include light and x-rays.) These high-energy beams, which are invisible to the human eye, damage a cell’s DNA, the material that cells use to divide. Over time, the radiation damages cells that are in the path of its beam — normal cells as well as cancer cells. But radiation affects cancer cells more than normal cells. Cancer cells are very busy growing and multiplying — 2 activities that can be slowed or stopped by radiation damage. And because cancer cells are less organized than healthy cells, it’s harder for them to repair the damage done by radiation. So cancer cells are more easily destroyed by radiation, while healthy, normal cells are better able to repair themselves and survive the treatment.”
I had the weekend for my healthy cells to recover from the radiation I received on Thursday and Friday, but this week I’ll have radiation Monday through Friday. Last time, that’s when my breast swelled – after a full week. I’m hoping that it won’t swell this time, and I’m also hoping that my skin doesn’t burn. So I’ve made requests of my centering prayer group and my Facebook friends to send prayers and good thoughts and good mojo that I don’t swell and don’t burn. No water, no fire. I also asked the radiation therapists to send those same prayers and thoughts and mojo – to send good energy to counteract the radiation energy – while they’re giving me the treatments. So far my breast has not been swollen since the aspirations, and I hope the no-swelling will continue.
The other energy that I’m talking about is my personal energy level. I’m feeling stronger each day and can walk and stand for longer periods of time. Even though I still have pain, especially at the node-removal site where the swelling has come back (but that’s not a problem for the radiation plan – breast swelling is the concern) and with the new sty that has taken over my left eye, I feel much more like getting out and being with people and running errands and doing activities that non-cancer-patient people do. I did wear myself out one day last week because it felt so good to be out having lunch and dinner with friends, and I took a day “off ” after that.
I’m so grateful to those of you who have brought me meals or treated me to a lunch or dinner (out or at your house). And I appreciate your company just as much as your picking up the tab. Actually, I appreciate the company more. I feel blessed to have the energy to spend time with friends. That’s what I really missed when I felt the worst after the last chemo infusion. I missed being with people. But now I can get out and enjoy company. It seemed to me that this day would never come, but it has.
Though I’m not anywhere close to having my pre-cancer-treatment amount of energy, I’m definitely on the path to just that. Maybe there’s a way to transform radiation energy into energy that I can use? If it’s possible, I’d sure like to do that. But if it’s not, then I’ll depend on friends and family to send me positive energy to help me through this last segment of my breast cancer treatment path. I know lots of you are doing that every day. If you want to send it at the time I’m being irradiated, that would be around 9:50 each weekday morning. And if you don’t remember at that time, no problem. All positive energy, whether through prayer or good thoughts or good mojo, will arrive when I need it. Energy is smart like that. And since we all share it, when you send good energy to me, it continues on and comes back to you eventually. So I’m sending lots of loving energy your way, too. Energy in its various manifestations is what I’m grateful for today – yours, mine, and the radiation machine’s.