Moira’s Cancer According To Seinfeld

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June 14, 2009: Salesman: What are you looking for? Kramer: Power, man. Power. Newman: Like “Silkwood.” Kramer: That’s for radiation! Newman: That’s right.

It’s hard to believe that I am almost done with radiation. It went by a lot faster than I thought–even though I had more200px-Seinfeld_s7e16sessions than I anticipated.

Before radiation therapy began, I had to meet my new radiation oncologist (yet another doctor I need to add to the Christmas card list) and go over my treatment history thus far. Then he developed (what they call in the business) the “plan” which basically is your personalized angles and beam application of radiation. I had to go in for a set-up day, where they measured all the correct angles for aiming the radiation beams and gave me three tiny tattoos–no bigger than a freckle–along my ribcage and one other that I can’t even find. I had to lie on the very table where I would spend every morning at 8:15 to receive my radiation, and be as still as I could while they made some additional marks on my skin with a Sharpie marker. I had two techs that were working with me–both male–both extremely sweet. Oh, and that whole modesty thing? Doesn’t really exist when you’ve just got two plastic expanders under skin. They just aren’t boobs, so there’s nothing to really be modest about. Kind of sad, but kind of liberating in a way.

So here’s the process, from a website that makes the radiation machines:

“As part of treatment after breast surgery, patients are typically treated with radiation five times per week for at least six weeks in an outpatient clinical setting. Each treatment generally lasts a few minutes; the entire radiation session after machine set-up typically lasts 15 to 30 minutes. The procedure itself is pain-free. While the radiation is being administered, the technologist will leave the room  and monitor the patient on a closed-circuit television. However, patients should be able to communicate with the technologist at any time over an intercom system.”

It was indeed 6 weeks. Every morning, Monday thru Friday. I would see the same patients before and after my appointment–we’d say our brief hellos in the changing room, but that was it. No real time to bond in our whole “pink power!” situation. Probably better that way.

I had different rad techs from week to week, but I liked them all. Each had their own way of setting me up and aligning my body to match the Plan, but it all had the same results. Sometimes they would add additional markings to my treatment area with a Magic Marker, making my chest look like a road map of downtown LA. I am not allowed to remove any of the markings until I am completely done. But that’s fine. They peek out from my upper chest, so any time I wear a v-neck shirt, they are visible. Makes for interesting conversation starting.

“Side effects of external beam therapy vary among patients. The most common side effect is fatigue. Fatigue (extreme tiredness) can be especially bothersome in the later weeks of treatment.”

I was fine up until, say the last week or 10 days (I still have four more “boost” treatments, but am pretty much done). I am pretty knackered. I am OK for the morning but by 2 p.m. I just am sleepy! I’m still trying to work out, but when I do, I seriously can’t think. My brain just sort of goes into that “hourglass” mode–you know, where your computer is kind of stuck and you just see that stupid hourglass symbol? I have started taking little naps on days where I can’t hold my head up. But in general, I am OK.

“Other common side effects of radiation therapy are neutropenia (sharp decrease in white blood cell count) swelling of the breast, a feeling of heaviness in the breast, a sunburn-type appearance of the breast skin, and loss of appetite. These side effects usually disappear after six to 12 months. Near the end of treatment with radiation, the breast skin may become moist. Patients should try to wearing loose fitting clothing and expose the skin to air as much as possible to help the skin heal quickly.”

OK, if there are any other breast cancer patients reading this blog, I would say, ‘your results may vary.’ EVERYONE is different. You might have porcelain skin and come out just fine, or you may have super dark skin and burn like a mother. It is a total genetic crapshoot. My skin tightened considerably–which they told me it would. And I have what would be considered a slight sunburn. But it is not bad at all. The rad techs said I did super good. My rad oncologist said, “this is as good as it gets” for side effects. Rejoice! Because I lack a lot of sensation in the skin post surgery anyway, it doesn’t itch or burn. I only have slight irritation under the arm, and hopefully that will go away soon.

I was only allowed to use aloe vera on the radiation site, because any other product may have drying properties. No deodorant because it has metal based chemicals that can increase damage in the skin. No soap on the area. (weird tho, I don’t really sweat underneath that arm any more). I think the aloe was awesome. Think about it when you fall asleep drunk in the sun during your next trip to Cabo.

Anyway, in 4 more days, the “boost” sessions will be over. I don’t really know what the next step is. I am not sure when I’ll be “done”. I don’t use the word “survivor” at all. I say I’m undergoing treatment for cancer. But I don’t know when I’ll be given the green light and told I’m cancer free.






June 14, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment