Sunday, September 15, 2013

Outline of my days

I have completed 12 of 32 radiation treatments. I'm over 1/3 the way through the treatments. Here's what I can say about them:

I arrive at the Radiation Oncology wing of the breast center at 8:30. I sign in at the front desk and head to the changing room, where I undress above the waist and put on a white gown. Because I lie on my back for the treatments, the gown needs to open in the back. The first week, I picked the Small/Medium size gown, which seems appropriate to my size. But the ties of the small gowns don't wrap around to the front, and they are hard to tie in the back. So this week I started picking the Large size, which has ties that are long enough to wrap around to the front. I look like a monk wearing white.

I put my clothes and things in a locker in a small waiting area and have a seat to wait for my turn. There is usually one or two other women in the waiting area, and sometimes a volunteer who helps folks get oriented on their first day. The volunteer also keeps the waiting area stocked with water, which I appreciate. The radiation seems to make me thirstier than normal.

I usually get called for my treatment after 5 or 10 minutes, but if they are running behind it could be longer. All the technicians are very nice. I lie on my back with my arms resting in arm rests above my head. Someone places a cushion beneath my knees. I am trying to be brief tonight, so I'll leave a description of the actual treatment for a later post. Suffice it to say that it all takes only about 10 minutes.

Back in the waiting room the other ladies are surprised that I'm done so soon. I get my clothes from the locker and slip back into the changing room. Before I put on my bra, I spread some of the lotion I was given over the just-radiated breast. This is supposed to keep it soft and lessen the skin side effects. So far, I have noticed that the nipple of the irradiated breast appears darker in color than the non-treated breast. And occasionally it is itchy for a few minutes. But nothing more difficult than that.

Then I say goodbye to the other ladies and leave the breast center. If I don't have a meeting at work I need to get to, I will usually go for a walk for 15-30 minutes before heading to work. Walking helps to integrate the energy of the radiation, and since I'm starting to feel fatigue in the afternoons, it might be the only exercise I get for the day.

It doesn't take long to get to work; I'm usually there by 10am at the latest. Mornings are my highest energy time. I think I may actually be more energetic than normal after the radiation. It feels like a caffeine boost.

But then I crash a few hours later, around 1pm or so. I take a break and let myself recline on a comfy chair in a darkened conference room. Once I let myself rest I quickly become very relaxed and sleepy. After half an hour, maybe 45 minutes, I feel less deeply tired and pull myself back to work. But I don't feel refreshed. I don't feel fully awake again generally for the rest of the afternoon. I have been leaving work around 4pm most days.

Evenings are better. So far I have felt mostly awake by evening. Especially if I do a bit of yoga after I get home. I find that if I can find the energy to move at least a little, I start to feel normal pretty quickly. I do not, however, have any difficulty getting to sleep. :-)

That is the outline of my weekdays in the past week or so. I am still trying to get a handle on the best strategies for getting through the experience. It would be much easier if I weren't working. Between work and the fatigue caused by the radiation, I don't have much energy left over for fun. I have healed enough to be able to do a little yoga this week, though, and that's fun!

Mostly I keep thinking that I'm more than 1/3 done. Four more treatments and I will be half-way there. I tell myself it will be over before I know it.