I did it! I made it through radiation treatments. My last treatment was on Friday the 19th. Whew!
It wasn’t easy, let me tell you. Not only did I have to have 33 treatments (that’s 5 days a week for 6.5 weeks) but I had to have all of my treatments in the prone position. That’s face down kids.
The photo above shows the first machine that gave me the first 26 treatments. The gray portion is where I “rested” my forehead and chin. My left breast hung down in the large open space on the left with my hands above my head. Not comfortable. And the first 3 weeks were really hard on my back.
But eventually, my back got more used to the convoluted position, the techs kept me laughing and my family and friends rallied around me to keep me moving.
There was a period between the 20th and 10th treatments where I just thought I couldn’t do it one more day but once I hit the single digits I got a new burst of optimism and was able to power through.
Breast Cancer Radiation Treatment Survival Tips:
These tips are from my own experience – every cancer is different and every body is different. Please feel free to ignore the tips that you don’t think will work for you. Also, this is not medical advice and if you have ANY questions you should ask your care team.
- Begin using the lotion your Radiation Oncologist recommends a couple of weeks before treatment begins – this not only gets you into the routine but helps get your skin healthier before starting.
- Buy some soft men’s undershirts to wear after putting on lotions. You’ll probably toss them after treatment but that soft shirt will be a life saver.
- As soon as you start to feel the irritation and/or chaffing stop wearing a bra. It felt really weird because I haven’t gone without a bra since I was a kid but it makes a world of difference.
- Wear scarves and sweaters (I was lucky enough to have treatment in the winter) to hide the fact that you can’t wear a bra. Especially if you are a well endowed gal like me.
- And if you do wear a bra – no underwires!
- Use the lotion your doctor recommends but also stock up on Aquaphor, and aloe vera gel (with NO alcohol).
- Plan to put something on your skin 3-4 times a day.
- Plan for, and schedule, extreme self-care along the way. Schedule Reiki, massage, therapy, mani-pedi appointments and other special treats to get you through the treatments. Reiki and massage were life savers for me.
- Not eating 1-2 hours before treatment was very helpful as that yellow bar pushed into my abdomen and caused quite a bit of discomfort if I had just eaten.
- Create a calendar and give each square a number coordinating with the number of treatments you have. Put a sticker on the chart after each treatment. Having a physical reminder of your progress is really helpful especially toward the end.
- Celebrate bench marks – the 10th treatment, half way, single digits and, of course, the final treatment.
- Line up friends or family who might be willing to drive you to treatment now and again. It’s nice sometimes to have someone to go with you. Just to keep you company if nothing else. Also, there will be days when you just don’t even want to go. Having a friend along really helps on those days.
- You will get tired. It’s a fact. Even if you can’t make yourself slow down early on your body will see to it that you slow down. Plan for it and try to go with the flow. Getting all upset about it doesn’t help anyone. I learned that one the HARD way.
- Drink plenty of water. I have been trying to drink a gallon of water a day. Some days I make it but not on others. Just make sure to stay super hydrated.
- Eat healthy. It’s not easy when you are tired but do your best to feed your body plenty of good food so it can heal.
- Try to walk a little. Even though you will experience fatigue try to take a short walk each day if you can. It helps physically and mentally.
- Massage the area being treated often to prevent fluid build up. It can be a little tender to massage but fluid build up is MORE painful. Trust me on that one.
- Take the pain medicine if it is offered to you. As one of my doctors said, “There is no award for suffering.”
This is the second machine which I had for 7 “boost” treatments where just the tumor bed was treated. The machine moves around the bed. There is a short video on my Instagram feed.
Finally, have fun when and where you can. I had an incredible team of doctors and techs for my radiation treatments. We shared lots of stupid jokes and silliness. I think it helped them as much as it did me.
I gave them treat bags with some of my favorite “penny” candy from when I was a kid on my birthday the 17th. The bouncy ball is in there for fun and the cockroach for mischief. Because that’s just who I am.
Radiation treatments are no walk in the park, especially in the prone position but I’ve been finished a full week now and my skin is healing quickly. I’m ever so thankful for my family, friends and you, my readers, who have called or sent cards, messages or emails. Just knowing that I had a group of loving people pulling for me made a world of difference.