Radiation Therapy

Earlier this week I started radiation therapy.  So far radiation has gone okay.  I have radiation every day and it takes less than 30 minutes total.  I have to wear a pretty intense mask that gets tightened down to a position where my eyelids and mouth are stuck in a half open position, but it is tolerable for 15 minutes.  My goal at the end of treatment is to have mastered the ability to take a quick cat nap while I’m on the table.  I am getting treatments for five weeks, which I gather is more than usual.  So, almost one week done, four to go.

I’ll admit, I guess I oversimplified radiation therapy in my mind.  It’s weird because I’m a nuclear pharmacist, so a lot of people think I have something to do with radiation treatment for cancer.  Most of the drugs I prepare are for diagnostic imaging.  Only a small portion, mainly I-131 therapies for thyroid cancer, would fit into the category of treating cancer.  I understand a lot about radiation itself, but I definitely did not realize how much is involved in treating cancer with high doses of radiation.  I just naively thought a beam of radiation would be directed at my whole chest.  It turns out it’s a lot more sophisticated than I realized.  There is a lot more planning and talk of targeted beams, planes, and angles of attack.

Unfortunately, the office of my radiation oncologist, similar to the office of my medical oncologist, feels like a senior citizen center.  They have daytime TV shows playing in the waiting rooms, fishing and travel magazines with gray haired cover models, adult coloring books, and partially completed 1000-piece puzzles (with respect to the puzzles, you really have to wonder what the average wait time is in a waiting room where people have the time to make a significant dent in a 1000-piece puzzle).  I am always the youngest person by about 30 years.  I try to stay positive, but every time I have an appointment I always wonder why my life has been fast-forwarded 30 years.  Why are some of my years being deleted?

A few weeks ago, I had the initial “planning” visit where I met with the radiation oncologist and was presented with the treatment options available.  I was looking forward to the initial appointment in that I felt that radiation was going to be the miracle treatment that zaps my cancer into remission.  Overall the appointment went really well.  My radiation oncologist seemed positive and caring and everyone seemed to have an appreciation for working with my schedule.  The side effect profile of radiation seems pretty minimal for me and we’ll get to evaluate how well the treatments have worked about three months after I finish radiation.  The only downfall of the series of initial visits was that after all of this positive talk about the plan and possible remission, the word “palliative” was in some of my paperwork.  Because of the ability the cancer has shown to move to different tissues in my body, radiation is palliative, not curative.  I don’t know if it’s from pharmacy school or life in general, but I hate the word palliative.  To me, that’s like giving up.  Semantics aside, there is the possibility the radiation could put the cancer into remission, so there’s still hope.

Author: katiewardstage4

I am a 42 year old pharmacist and mother of two currently living in Madison, WI. In my spare time I enjoy running and baking. Starting this blog has enabled me to record some of my feelings about being diagnosed with breast cancer and has also given me the realization that writing for a living would be much more difficult than I would have guessed.

2 thoughts on “Radiation Therapy”

  1. Hi Katie-not sure if you remember me or not but I knew you when you were young at the estherville church. Just wanted you to know that you and your family are in our prayers every day. God bless.


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