MaryLiz in Michigan
- Joined: 8/27/2009
- Location: Michigan
My experience with radiation therapy
Thursday, August 27, 2009 12:51 PM
Here is what I learned when I underwent radiation therapy:
1) When they pricked me to make the tattoos, it hurt like bee stings. (Be ready for it, if you are going to have your own tattoos soon.) They only made three dots on me: one right in the cleavage and one on each side of my ribs.
2) Somehow, seeing those tiny blue dots on my skin made the whole cancer thing seem more real to me. I cried about it for a bit, then I felt more clear headed after I accepted the fact that I was no longer "invincible."
3) At first, it was difficult for me to give up aluminum-containing anti-perspirant. I don't sweat a lot, but once the bacteria get to work on my sweat, it ain't pretty. My own artpits aren't the problem -- if the sweat gets on my clothes, it can reek after a couple of hours. Something about my personal body chemistry. I had to think of something fast!
For me, the solution was Tea Tree Oil. It is an essential oil that I bought at the health food store. I would put a couple of drops on my fingertips, then rub it under my arms. I kept using tea tree oil long after radiation ended in January, but switched back to the aluminum-containing stuff only after the weather got extremely hot and steamy this summer.
4) I had all my radiation appointments scheduled for the early morning. That way, I could be in and out before the day really started. I never had to wait long.
5) I did radiation during the winter (in Michigan) and there were a few snow storms that made it very difficult to get to treatment. I allowed plenty of time, and even when we had to go around the long way because a road was blocked, we still got there on time.
6) I drove myself to nearly every appointment. The only time someone else drove was when my hubby had vacation from work. Some of those were the snow storm days, so it was reassuring to have someone else in the car.
7) When I came home, I would take a nap right away. By the time I woke back up, half the day was already over. I just had to cut back on my expectations and keep my TO-DO list short.
8) Toward the end of RT, I started to lose my appetite. Or else it started to seem like too much trouble to cook for myself. Not sure. But I ended up buying some healthy vegetable soups (V-8, Amy's) and some of those vegetarian patty things from the frozen food section. I had that for lunch on the days when I didn't have much appetite. When I cooked dinner, it was always something simple that didn't require me to stand in front of the stove for a long time. I would make extra so that I didn't have to cook every day.
9) I had gotten the house really, really clean before RT started. After the fatigue began, I tried to keep up, but ended up just letting the cleaning go for a while.
10) Before RT began, I stocked up on non-perishable foods and stuff like toilet paper and tissue, so that I would only have to shop for fruits and vegetables and meat.
11) Hospital gowns are always falling off. Bring a large safety pin to hold the opening closed. Better yet, wear two gowns, so that you will stay warm while you wait your turn. They keep those rooms cold because the machines require it. It might be nice in the summer, but in the winter, it's freezing in there!
12) If I felt the least bit of anxiety as I lay there on the table receiving my dose, it helped me to be able to pray for all the other people receiving radiation therapy, and for all the therapists, too.
13) I was fortunate. I never got much of a burn. I also used a product I got at the health food store, called Boiron Calendula Gel, right after each RT treatment before I left for home. At home, I used gel from an Aloe Vera plant. Just break open a leaf and rub the gel on your skin.
14) In addition to the tattoos, the therapists are going to make marks on your breast, to help calibrate your body to the machine every day. These marks are going to rub off on whatever bra or camisole you wear. So make sure you pick one that can get marks on it without your minding. My therapists used a Sharpie marker, and once therapy was over, the Sharpie ink actually washed out of my designated "radiation bra" just fine, to my surprise.
15) Before RT starts, shave your underarms. You might be too sensitive to shave on the "radiation side" after RT starts. I noticed that after a few RT sessions, all the peach fuzz fell out all over the affected breast, and about half of the armpit hair, so shaving there was not much of an issue for me. All the hair that fell out has grown back.
<message edited by MaryLiz in Michigan on Thursday, August 27, 2009 12:54 PM>