laser tag

Before I share with you how the radiation simulation went, I want to follow up on my last post and let you know that the PT did respond very graciously. You can all rest assured that she said all the right things. If having my feelings hurt is the worst mistake someone makes in my cancer treatment, I think I can easily count my blessings. I got to experience how fiercely protective you all are of me. I didn’t anticipate that. XOXO. The feeling is mutual.

So…radiation simulation. What even is that? First, I met with a nurse who answered questions and took vitals, of course. They made me take a pregnancy test. How cute. My radiation oncologist partners with radiation therapists and a dosemetrist to figure out the angle of the beams and…um…er…yeah…that is about all I understand about what they are doing. Basically, in my mind, they are playing laser tag with cancer.

While I can’t explain the radiation team’s job, I can describe what it was like for me. I had to have a CT scan (not a big image, just a “slice”). They had me lay on a Vac-Lok positioning cushion. (You can Google it.) While laying on my back, I had to put my arms over my head and look to my left (my non-cancer side). Once I was in the correct position, they sucked the air out of the cushion and it molded to my body. They also took a picture of me in the mold so they could tell me exactly how to fit back into it. Pretty slick. What wasn’t slick is how hard it is for me to hold my arms over my head for just a few minutes. This is due to the nerves and muscles that were cut during my surgery. I’m still recovering. At my first radiation appointment, I’ll need to hold my arms over my head for 30 minutes while laying down. I’ve been doing a lot of stretching and trying to return to my preferred sleeping position of arms-over-head. I’m hopeful that I can work up to 30 minutes quickly!

They put stickers all over my chest and marked me up with a sharpie. Eventually, they put little tattoos on either side of my body (below my armpits). They did this with a regular needle and syringe. It stung a little bit. I totally had imagined a legit tattoo machine for my tiny little leveling dots. Funny. I will get another tattoo on my sternum on my first radiation day.

Oh, by the way, I have a hot date with the laser beams: February 3! This is a huge mercy as it is the last possible start date that ensures I am done with radiation before Spring Break. I will have 33 sessions. They will be every business day from February 3 to March 18. My appointments should usually take about 15 minutes. I have been told that side effects are mild, that I will start to feel tired a few weeks in. That just means I might need a cat nap or I’ll head to bed an hour earlier than usual. Also, I am to expect skin sensitivity where I’m being treated, which is basically the upper right quadrant of my chest and a bit of my armpit. It will be like sunburn.

I think the last thing you might be wondering is how I feel about all this emotionally. There’s always that part. I’m ready. I was nervous about getting radiation because after you radiate a part of your body, you can’t treat that same area with radiation again. I like to keep a little insurance in my back pocket. Like, maybe I should save that treatment for the next time. But according to the clinical studies, this treatment should reduce my risk of reoccurence. And, if there is a next time, it’s not predictable where it will show up. I’d like breast cancer to be over and done with. So, I’m ready to do this next step. I realize there are no guarantees, but I march forward with peace.

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