The "boost"

My radiation program is almost over. I had treatment number 28 today — only 6 to go! Seven weeks seems much shorter from this end.

I had my last photon treatment on Tuesday, so my neck and all of the area surrounding the tumor have had their last radiation and can start healing. As in all other phases, this has not been as bad as it could have been. The area over my clavicle – front and back, since there are no bones to obstruct the x-ray in much of that area – showed the most effect: red and bumpy and itchy with a capital I. By the end of the first phase, you could see the pattern of the 3 fields clearly. Most of it looked like a bad heat rash.

On Thursday the 9th, after my regular treatment and 3 treatment days before the end of phase 1, the radiation oncologist came into the treatment room and give direction to the therapists regarding the much smaller area immediately around the tumor area that he wanted addressed in the 9 electron treatments which constitute the “boost.” He drew the area on me, they selected an attachment for the machine to match the size and shape of the defined area, and the doctor gave them the parameters for the depth of the treatment. The doctor rattled me a little when he said that he was “going to make me uncomfortable.” The boost is focused on a small area which includes some of the most tender tissue on my body, so it’s likely to be more affected by the treatment and become more tender. Of course, “everyone is different,” and I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll have less problem than I might, as I have in other phases of treatment. After the doctor left, the therapists created a clear template that they use to recreate the same area to guide alignment of the beam before each treatment. Since they are treating one field instead of 3, the treatment itself is really quick now. I’m in the treatment room for less than 5 minutes and zapped for less than 30 seconds.

My hair is growing, but not very fast. At least, it doesn’t seem fast. But then again, it had to start from zero. I’d say it’s a bit over a 1/4 of an inch long, but Jerry still says we need a micrometer to measure it! Jury’s still out on color. It started almost see through. It’s definitely darkening, but the color isn’t defined enough to tell if it’s got some blond or some gray or what. Of course, this means all of my hair is growing. My brows are filling in, I have full lashes again (though shorter), and things that used to be shaved require shaving again. Too bad I couldn’t select which should grow and which I’d be happy to leave out of the inventory.

I’ve stopped wearing my wigs. As summer weather finally arrived in San Diego, the heat became a factor. I went to work wig-less for the 1st time on the 14th. I got thumbs up from those who commented, so guess we’ll all be able to deal with the change. I’m certainly a more comfortable employee! And I enjoy my lunch time walks much more. 🙂

I’m still experiencing nail “issues,” but they are growing, and I hope the irregularities (which I am probably much more aware of than anyone else) grow out, too.

I am still doing physical therapy twice a week. I have had some regression in range of motion, including some mild effects in my arm that are new. The physical therapy helps keep things moving and minimizes the effects of radiation. But I’m still golfing, attending yoga once a week, and have just started using a yoga video, designed by a survivor for survivors, which helps stretch the areas that are particularly affected.

My last treatment will be on 27 July – graduation day!!! I will see my medical oncologist later in that week to talk about hormone therapy, so I’ve been studying aromatase inhibitors again, and building my list of questions for the doctor. There are 3 that I’m aware of. I’m concerned about reported bone loss and my family history of osteoporosis. I’m also concerned about increased hot flashes, since I already have problems in that area. And I’ve learned that they are very expensive, so we’ll chat about that, too.

The end is in sight!!!


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