Monday, July 14, 2014

What Nobody Tells You

Someone should write a book or a website titled, "What Nobody Tells You," update it every month, and make it required reading. Including a version with millions of subjects, searchable based on the user's current needs.

Ok, that may be a bit ambitious. However, over the last couple of years, I've often wished for such a thing.

For instance, the subject that would have helped me the most recently?

What nobody tells you about radiation treatments in 6 easy paragraphs:

  • When breast cancer requires weeks of radiation treatments, forget about modesty. You will have to expose yourself to male and female technicians on a daily basis. They will "adjust" you in whatever contraption or position is needed for the beams of radiation to hit the same areas at the same angle every single day.
  • You'll get tattoos, whether you want them or not. Single dots of grey ink that look so unnatural that, although they are the size of a mole or freckle, no one will mistake them as such. These are used to help position your body and your breast for treatments every day.
  • Radiation burns your skin and it will peel and itch, sometimes for months after treatments have finished. Those cute little sundresses with slim straps or lower necklines may have to wait until you heal and your skin normalizes. Like, until next summer.
  • A few weeks into treatments, you'll notice a tiredness that takes over your life by small degrees until getting out of bed in the morning feels overwhelming. You'll wake up feeling exhausted, and the fatigue gets more insidious as the weeks of treatments progress. When you first notice this side effect, the weekend off of treatments will help you to rejuvenate. By the following weekend, the cumulative result of the treatments will simply wipe you out. Need to work a full week? Good luck.
  • And the aching. It seems to originate from the sunburned skin, but that's an illusion. It feels that way because the sunburn is worse in the areas where the treatment is more intensely aggressive and the tissue damage is greatest. Painkillers will take the edge off of the ache, but don't try to sleep on that side or the pain will wake you...if you are able to get to sleep at all.
  • Don't celebrate too much when the treatments are done. The pain and exhaustion are far from over. It can take months to regain normal strength and vigor. And the aching remains and can worsen due to triggers as simple as sitting at a desk for long periods or strenuous walking.

I can only speak from my own experiences. From what I'm told, I got off easy because I didn't need to be hospitalized. Nor did I have some of the more intense side effects such as mouth sores, digestive problems, and unsteadiness and difficulty keeping my balance. For this I'm immensely thankful.

I'm also grateful that I didn't need to have chemotherapy. I'm keenly aware of how much more difficult my treatment could have been.

I'm not sure what subject I would have liked to have known next, on the list of things that nobody tells you. So many subjects come to mind. Perhaps I'll explore a few in future posts.

For now, I'll think I'll just go find some ibuprofen, take a nap and look forward to the day when I can wake feeling refreshed. To think that I used to take that for granted.

Thanks for reading!


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