It is safe to assume that radiotherapy/ radiation is often not talked about as much as its sibling chemotherapy. It is not considered as harsh nor has the notorious reputation that chemotherapy does. However, radiation, despite its lack of fame still forms a key part of the cancer healing process. Whilst the effects of the treatment may not be a drastic as its predecessors, it can still take its toll on a cancer patient. The treatment may last no longer than 15 minutes, however going for treatment 5 days a week, for 6 weeks (in mom’s instance) does not seem appealing at all.
Radiation was not in the original plan for mom. The addition for this new treatment meant that this chapter of her life, which she wished to put behind her – is still open… and most disappointingly, prevents her from returning to work just yet. Needless to say she was more than apprehensive about this and questioned the importance of it. However the reason behind this new addition of treatment was due to the change in surgery. Originally, mom was supposed to have a mastectomy performed. Removing the entire breast means there is nothing to clean up afterwards… however due to the complete response mom had of her 9 weeks of chemotherapy, a mastectomy was not needed. Instead a lumpectomy was performed. It is because of this that radiation serves as a “mopping up” process to ensure that we dot our I’s and cross our t’s.
Radiation began at on the 3rd of January 2017, which means today mom completed her 6th treatment. However prior to her very first radiation session, mom was required to go for a CT and Planning scan. The team takes measurements, scans and eventually marks the body to ensure that mom will be receiving radiotherapy in the exact same area every day for the next 6 weeks. A painful procedure known as “tattooing” is required, where tiny markings are placed under the skin to ensure the correct line up every day, and if you are familiar with my mom you will understand her aversion to needles all too well.
Thus far, mom has completed a week already and seems to be doing well. She is required to do a number of stretching exercises as radiation causes your tissue and muscles to become tight. A lack of stretching can limit movement & change your posture altogether. Unfortunately the side effects of the chemotherapy still continue as it side effects can last up to 18 months to 2 years. Due to the taxol (paclitaxel) a type of chemotherapy drug mom received, one of the side effects is bone degeneration…. The drug has negatively affected mom’s leg making her experience a constant agonizing pain. Her posture has altered and walking a short distance has become a difficulty. However this early stage of osteopenia can be reversed with the correct calcium supplement (which she is currently taking) and physiotherapy (which she will start shortly).
The way I see it, radiation is the last hurdle before the finish line… the last push in a brutal series of events. 6 down, 24 to go… You’ve got this mom!!!