Gettin’ Ready to Radiate!

One of the Silver Linings during my breast cancer journey was finding small ways to care for myself. It was the small, simple things, really (e.g., a cup of tea, watching a hummingbird outside my window, snuggling with my daughter) that buoyed my spirit and kept me hopeful.

The Unexpected SL

As I walked in to the radiation center for my simulation appointment (that happens prior to actually starting radiation), I had that all too familiar feeling of shock that announces, “WTF are you doing HERE? You were just supposed to go for a check-up.” Sometimes the feeling gives me chills. Other times, it gives me a hot flash. Either way, I’m thrown off. (Better than throwing up! Silver Lining).

Very quickly, however, my chills were warmed and my hot flash cooled thanks to the incredible staff. Every person I met was nicer than the last. More patient than the last. A huge Silver Lining!

Who Needs Arms?

I was led into a room and asked to lay on a hard table. After my arms were strapped into the strange blue apparatuses, I was left alone.

Why by myself, you ask? Well, because the emissions from the X-ray and CT scan are so toxic that no one can be in the room when I received them. The technicians would come in from time to time to check in on me or to change my position.

Here’s the dialogue when they came in (which tried every last bit of my patience):

“Don’t move. We will move you. Don’t hold your breath. Breathe normally, but not too deeply. Don’t talk. This scarf won’t do. Wait…don’t move. I think we have it. Breathe. Normally. Not too deeply.”

My First Tattoo

Anyway, by the time I was done, the area to be radiated was tattooed on my skin. Can you imagine? I went to Catholic school for an innumerable period of time without a tattoo…and now, thanks to FBC (what I like to call F-Bomb Breast Cancer), a tattoo is mandated. Comedy of the absurd.

These tattoos will stay on my skin throughout the entire treatment period because they show exactly where the radiation will be delivered.

A New Daily Schedule

The radiation learning curve was steep: new specialists, new vocabulary, and new apparatuses. Let’s see if I can explain it clearly…

The radiation oncologist works with physicists, technicians and a medical dosimetrist (dosimetrists are responsible for calculating and devising the dose of radiation to best destroy a tumor/tumors while sparing normal tissues). It takes at least 3 days to determine a radiation dose.

Radiation therapy treatments take a few minutes each day (please don’t put the word “only” before “a few minutes). This will take place everyday, Monday through Friday. Something to look forward to each morning, right?

After an exhausting day like this, I knew I needed something special; a sweet treat from my favorite chocolate shop. Always end the day with a Silver Lining!

How do you treat yourself, when you really need a Silver Lining?

Patience: A minor form of despair disguised as a virtue.
~Ambrose Bierce

What do you do when your are having an extremely challenging day?

Published on: March 19, 2014
About the Author
Photo of Hollye Jacobs
Hollye Jacobs is a speaker, nurse, social worker, child development specialist, and author of The Silver Lining: A Supportive and Insightful Guide to Breast Cancer. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, she speaks publicly and writes about her experience on the award-winning blog
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