Next week I begin Leg 3 of what my sister has affectionately dubbed "The Iron Woman," or basically the treatment triathlon of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Radiation consists of treatments every weekday for about 7 weeks, much like a marathon involves doing the same activity seemingly in perpetuity. The treatments themselves are relatively brief, but after having to drive to radiation oncology twice yesterday, I've decided I like it about as much as I like running...those of you who know me well should immediately understand my feelings on it.
I had my CT scan yesterday so that the doctors and radiologists can basically set my coordinates in the radiation machinery. This allows the beam to be calibrated specifically to my body so they're radiating the correct tissue. The nurses marked three big Xs on my chest in paint markers once the scan was over; the idea was to leave those marks in place all week and then replace them with permanent tattoos that will serve as guide points for the actual radiation beam.
However, the paint from the markers promptly washed off after one shower, and I had to drive back to the hospital so they could re-draw one of them. The nurses gave me the tattoos for the other two—I'm still confused why they couldn't do all three but I was sick of asking the same question over and over again. Fortunately, the tattoos are tiny blue marks that will only be visible when I'm in a bathing suit, and even then you'd have to look really closely to see them. This was a relief because I was envisioning dime-sized indigo blotches in really prominent locations on my chest...not exactly my idea of attractive tattoos.
As for side effects, I'm expecting a bad sunburn on the radiated skin and fatigue. To what level that fatigue will be, I don't know. I'm still affected by tiredness from the chemo, but I am hopeful the radiation fatigue won't be as bad. More than anything I am irritated by the prospect of going to the oncology department every day (it's depressing there) and being topless in front of strangers repeatedly. At this point I probably shouldn't care because it's happened so often, but it's yet another indignity foisted upon me by this stupid disease.
To make the situation a little more light-hearted, or maybe just to exercise a measure of control, I started buying bras in bright colors with crazy accents—the types of things I never wear otherwise. From a practical standpoint, front-close bras are much quicker and easier to take off and put back on than the traditional back-close styles, so it made sense for me to invest in a couple. I took that opportunity to get some wild ones; if I've got to take my shirt off every day for people, let's at least make it interesting!
And so on Monday this phase begins! I've been telling my kids that I'm going to have super-powers by getting zapped with a laser beam for weeks on end. If you see them, please corroborate my story.