Thursday, April 23, 2015

What is Radiation anyway?

In early February I had my second surgery (lumpectomy) followed by a mammogram which cleared me to go onto radiation treatments. If you'd asked me last November what radiation treatments looked like I'd have answered, no idea? Only because I didn't need to know.
This morning, I had my last radiation treatment.
External Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to damage cancer cells. I had one session every weekday (weekend rest breaks allow the normal cells to recover) for 5 weeks = 20 sessions.
Although the ominous machine+bed was creepy looking the sessions were kind of relaxing with easy listening music playing in a dimly lit room (The Doobie Brother's Black Water comes to mind:). These sessions were fast, about 15 minutes long (a good thing) and painless (a better thing). Plus the radiation therapists were super nice (another good thing).

This is what 20 radiation treatments look like.
The radiation therapists position you in the exact spot, with every visit, so that the radiation beams hit the same target each time. When you're all 'lined up', the therapists (there is always 2) leave the room and the linear accelerator (the huge machine at the end of the bed) is turned on. While making a slow buzzing sound, it rotates from right to left, allowing the beams to do what they do.
For my last 4 sessions the length of the treatments remained the same while the radiation levels were increased.
A big thank you to the super friendly Radiation Therapists for taking the this is what radiation looks like photos each day:)

Radiation treatments come with side effects that are different from person to person. Side effects depend on: the part of your body being treated, the type and amount of radiation you get and your general health. Radiation to the breast area can cause dryness, itchiness or reddening of the skin.
After my treatment I was given a small booklet, Life after Cancer Treatment - 2 quotes in it stood out for me;

"I do consider myself a survivor. I think the word simply reminds me that
the outcome could have been entirely different" ~ Allan

"It's funny - I hate the word survivor. I didn't want to be Julie with breast cancer and I don't want to be Julie who had breast cancer. I am Julie who just happened to have this happen in my life" ~ Julie

I'm with Julie on this one.
And now it's back to the road.


M said...

Well written, well said... love your informative way of sharing your journey. I feel that you have taken the "C" out of cancer and explained and defused the radiation process. And I agree with Julie and you on this one " ... just happened to have this happen in my life".
Another saying I like " it isn't what happens to us but how we deal with it ... " I like and respect how you have and that you never left 'the road' during your treatments.

Sue said...

"On the road again!" Makes me Smile.

Sharon Pape said...

Karen, I've followed you for about 2 years now...absorbed in the work you do, the art you create. Now, I look for words of your healing. Thank you for sharing.

Warm, positive thoughts flowing your way,


Karen J said...

Thank you Sharon. I'm feeling your warm and positive thoughts:)

Pam said...

I'm so glad this part of the road is behind you. Now you can move along and enjoy the rest of your long healthy life. I'm with Julie too. I survived cancer twice but I am not a "survivor", just a person who happened to have cancerr, was treated and am well. Nothing brave or extraordinary. Just life. So enjoy every beautiful and even the not so beautiful moments.
I am in awe of your work by the way.
Best, Pam

Karen J said...

Thanks Pam:)
Well said.