I saw the Firefighter this morning … watching all those muscles pop made my day! Rugged. Strong. Big. Sigh. He is honestly the hottest guy ever. Makes me weak at the knees.
Am I not allowed a little bit of male adoration as I head to the Durham Region Cancer Centre for Radiation number 5 of 20? I have to have something to look forward to. Being bedridden while not being bed ridden is awful.
But I was going to write about my radiation today, not my satisfaction.
I am one-quarter of the way through my treatment. Eleven more zaps over the entire breast, then four “boost” treatments of beams targeted to the tumour site.
My Radiation Oncologist, Dr. IQ thinks that I am crazy (I swear the doctors wonder what is going to come out of my mouth next!) but I questioned his sanity today when he encouraged me to exercise with my broken leg. Drop 20lb weights on my good foot? Hobble a marathon? You want me to do what? Plank? You are kidding me, right? If I am planking, there better be a cute guy under me!
Dr. IQ rolled his eyes and sighed “Well you better exercise or you will be toast at the end of radiation.”
I’m not toast now?
Have you ever tried to do Broken Leg Yoga – there is such a thing … I googled it – with two dogs? Mission impossible. Cancer is easier to deal with than the broken limb. I showed Dr. IQ the photo of my broken fibula and he said “Oh. Ya. It needs a plate.” Fuck. Then he said “We think of those orthopedic surgeons as hammer and screwdriver types.” Just what I need. Jekyll meet Frankenstein.
Broken limbs are even more awkward in the bedroom …
“Honey, can you move your cast off my backside?”
“Would you be a darling and get me a chop stick to scratch my ankle?”
“Don’t look so helpless.”
“But … I have cancer AND a broken leg” I whimper, with my bottom lip trembling.
Gets them every time.
Back in the beginning of October, I had a planning session with x-rays, CT scans and a simulation. They marked my chest with three little blue tattoos; one in between my breasts on my sternum, one lower down on my belly and one to the right side. These tattoos are permanent and are used to line up the beam for radiation. Yet another permanent reminder of my cancer journey.
Between the simulation and real radiation, hours of planning took place. The treatment simulation data is used to plan the geometric, radiological, and dosimetric aspects of the radiation therapy. The Radiation Physist selects the appropriate beam type – photons, electrons and/or protons – the energy (e.g. 10 megaelectronvolts (MeV) photons) and the physical arrangements.
They use 3D images from my pre and post surgery CT scans to plan where to target the beams, for how long and the maximum dose of radiation. Lots of science behind radiation, which fascinates me (much more than the mustard gas/chemotherapy drugs) … and why I feel comfortable in the hands of my Oncology team. I am grateful. Without chemo I had a 40% chance of Triple Negative Breast Cancer reoccurence … 20% chance with chemo. Without radiation, I have a 30% chance of a reoccurence … 10% with. I am tipping the odds in my favour with peer-review science.
My loyal sister-in-crime Terri and I head down to the basement of the hospital, otherwise known as “the bunker”. The LINACs (radiation machines) each weigh over 18,000lbs including the bed base, so radiation is always in the basement. I change out of my clothes and wait for my turn. The setup takes longer than the actual treatment. Two radiation technicians guide me onto the bed and position my body guided by the tattoos, laser beams and rulers to the exact position for radiation.
The DRCC has six LINAC (linear accelerator) particle beam devices (I am always beamed by #5) to deliver x-rays, gamma rays and charge particle beams to the cancerous site. The linear accelerator uses radar/microwave technology to accelerate electrons, which allows them to collide with a heavy metal target to produce high-energy x-rays. These high energy x-rays are specifically shaped as they exit the machine to conform to the shape of my breast and tumour so they can be directed to specific sites. The beam comes out of the head of the accelerator, which is rotated around me. The blast is delivered in one long stream of 40-50 seconds, followed by three shorter blasts of 5-10 seconds. Then, the LINAC rotates to my left side to blast me with radiation from the other side. None of it is done from directly above to avoid penetrating my entire lung.
Since my tumour was only 0.7cm away from my chest wall, they had to up the radiation dose and beam through part of my lung … just in case. We don’t want any cancer cells to migrate through and cause lung cancer. According to statistics, if the cancer metastasized, it will show up in my breast, then my bones or liver, then my lung(s) and finally my brain. I have five years to wait before my odds are equal to that of other breast cancer “survivors”.
Everyone leaves the room … the blast doors are closed … and BEAM ON. I am left alone to listen to the clicking and whine of the accelerator as it charges up to blast me with radiation. I can’t feel anything – like an x-ray – but my body knows it is being blasted. I am sleeping about 12 hours a night, my right breast is slightly pinkish but not burned, thankfully. I generously slather a thick, rich cream all over the area three times a day to prevent skin damage and chapping.
“Where’s the kaboom?” Marvin Martian asks.
Just 15 days to go and I AM DONE!
If only the leg would heal by then. I am itching for a long hike, a good run and 5-inch heels.