Burn Baby Burn

There’s a disco inferno inside my shirt.

With 24 radiation treatments in the books and only 4 to go, the left side of my chest is starting to look like I belong in the California Raisins. My skin is a mix of pink, red and super angry purple and the colour forms a perfect square over the breast and into the armpit. It’s so hot and so burned that a couple of hobbits came by today and threw a ring into my armpit.

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I’m the one with the sunglasses on

So here is how the radiation treatments go. You arrive at the hospital and somehow find a spot in the world’s most awkward and cramped parking lot. Then you head inside the Cancer Clinic and go down into the basement to your radiation area. You change into your gowns and then wait to be called in for your appointment. When it’s your turn, you go into a big room with a machine in the middle and lay on a metal bed/slab listening to Smooth Operator by Sade (I always wonder how her name is spelled that way but pronounced Shaw-day?!). Your personalized body mould is on the bed and for my treatment I lay down with my arms over my head and my shoulders/head/arms are in the mould. The Radiation Therapists (some of the nicest people I’ve met) talk in medical jargon that I don’t understand all while pushing and twisting me into the exact position. Then they run out of the room and close the 2 foot thick door (true story) and leave me inside laying perfectly still so they don’t zap something not meant to be zapped. The machine turns on and over the speakers they ask me to take a deep breath and hold it. After a few seconds I can exhale as the machine rotates over my body to zap me from the other angle. They tell me to hold my breath again and then the treatment is over. The whole thing probably takes less than 5 minutes once I am in the room.

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The fact that I am in the treatment room being zapped for such a short amount of time every day makes it feel extra crazy that your skin can get so burned and irritated. I am doing 3 saline soaks per day (a facecloth soaked in saline on the area for 15 min), use ridiculous amounts of Aveeno and have just been given a piece of Interdry cloth to start using. The radiation is no joke…hence the giant radioactive symbol on the 2 foot thick door.

The good news is that I only have 4 more treatments to go but the bad news is that your skin continues to burn in the weeks after you finish. The radiation is cumulative and the doctors/nurses have said to be prepared for the real pain, itching, peeling, blistering and fatigue to amp up in the next couple weeks. In the meantime I soak, lotion and Interdry on repeat all day long and think about being so close to checking another big chunk of treatment off my cancer list.

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