When I walked into the radiation treatment suite today, I was asked if I was ready to learn something new. After the last 28 and the hot red color that I have developed, I was indeed ready.
Just for the photo reference, I’m providing a guide so you get some idea of the roasting levels that I’ve attained:
Back shoulder blade – roasting factor of 1
Arm area up from armpit – roasting factor of 1
Shoulder and upper chest – roasting factor of 2
Neck – roasting factor of 3
Breast area – roasting factor of 4
Upper armpit – roasting factor of 5
Lower armpit – roasting factor of 6
So what is shown in the picture is actually some of the lesser roasted areas.
This is why I’m anxious to get to this week (in addition to this week being my last treatment week). My boost treatments will only target my incision. While that area is in the breast area (roasting factor 4). This area isn’t tender and is actually turning brown.
The boost treatments only take 2 directional “firings,” are much less involved in setting up and don’t require the extensive breathe andhold exercises. In other words, it’s fast.
#28 Was My Wall
But I thought I had totally hit a wall this weekend. Saturday, I almost choked on some chicken salad. It made my throat REALLY hurt. And it didn’t stop. It continued to hurt and actually kept me from eating much dinner (even though I had tried a new recipe that was awesome) and taken quite some time cooking everything so Dennis could have a good dinner after working all day at the Wells Fargo Golf Championship as an Ambassador.
Sunday morning was only slightly better. I had coffee and yogurt and then a smoothie when I got home from church. At dinner, I chewed and chewed and managed to get a salad down so that I at least had something solid and nutritious for the day.
Sunday night was the worst. I don’t know why it seemed that everything that could be irritated on my body was. Despite taking a generous dose of sleep aide, my efforts to go to sleep were useless. My armpit actually hurt – which it hasn’t before – and every way that I turned seemed to put painful stress on tender skin. Even my right side surgery areas were tender. My throat was hurting and I had the feeling that something was stuck in it (when there was really nothing there). Taking small sips of water helped but even slightly taking too big of a drink made it painful. I had also taken ibuprofen. Nothing helped. At 3 a.m. I finally went to the sofa so I didn’t awaken Dennis. He was tired after the week’s ambassador work! I woke up at 5:15 a.m. and dozed until Dennis got up at 7 a.m.
It took a few cups of coffee but I finally woke up and got on with my day.
People Are The Difference
So today when I got to LCI Pineville, I was a little tired, in need of Starbucks, and at least curious about what was to come.
I couldn’t survive any of this if it weren’t for the amazing Levine people. The radiation crew – from administration people to nurses to technicians (and of course my radiology oncologist) are not just amazing – they are earth’s angels.
Just as my experience in the infusion suite, the experience with radiation has been eased by these folks. It’s a different place in our treatment than when we were undergoing chemo for all of us who are working our way through the endurance test that radiation actually is. The entire atmosphere is less stressed – a little lighter. We’ve been through the “worst” of it and now we’re all headed for the finish line. We have a different attitude and pretty much compare scars in the waiting room.
The fabulous people who treat us understand this. In fact, they understand so much of the psyche of the cancer patient that it is mind-boggling. They do because they see every form of it every day. They do because some of them have been through it. They do because they’re trained to be compassionate and helpful in addition to being expert at their medical responsibilities. Like I said, they are earth’s angels.
An example of their subtle way of treating each of us individually and making us feel special:
I keep a sense of humor about everything and they recognized that on my first day. So when time came for me to leave on Friday, the radiation technicians who administer the treatments, signed and gave me my bolus (one of the custom-fitted elements they used in my treatment or more simply – a form that was molded to fit my breast that altered the depth the radiation dose reached ). They would only throw it away. It isn’t medical waste and they knew my sense of humor and thought I would get a good laugh out of their gesture.
They gave me a gift in turning what could have been a droll, depressing and frightening experience into an experience that I can look back on with a smile.
So as I move through these last 4 days, I know I’m in good hands. I know that they will do all they can to make these last days easy. I’ll miss them but I won’t miss the reason I was there.