Radiation Therapy Ha Ha

Spiritual Smart Aleck


This morning I had two treats in my hand to give my dog, Marley.

I made her sit and gave her one. Good dog. But then she saw that the second treat was bigger, and she spat the first one out. She looked at me soulfully, begging for the bigger treat.
Which I gave to her.

That’s why I am lousy at training dogs. I’m a squish.

She does a lot for me, though. Mostly she keeps me company.

She kept me company after Rick died, and she’s keeping me company now as I go through radiation therapy following surgery for breast cancer.

I was feeling fine until my cancer was found. Then I had surgery, and wasn’t feeling so fine, and was given painkillers, which sent my brain on vacation.

When I recovered from surgery and the effects of the painkillers, I was feeling fine again. Now I have started radiation therapy, which requires driving into Seattle. Marley comes with me when I drive.

I have completed one week of radiation therapy, and I’m feeling okay. I have been told that as time goes on, I will become fatigued, and my skin might become burned. Or not. Some people don’t get the burn.

My doctor’s office gave me a list of things to get to preserve my skin. Calendula cream, avocado oil, and aloe vera gel. The calendula cream is supposed to be applied three times a day. The avocado oil is supposed to be applied at bedtime. The aloe vera gel is in case my skin does suffer burns.

So many women have been through this drill and are passing along what worked for them. One says to use the aloe vera gel right after treatment. One survivor says a nurse told her to use Noxema, and that worked for her. Another woman emailed that her doctor told her to use Bag Balm.

Well, of course. Good old Bag Balm.

As for Noxema, I’ll try it, but I know I’m going to smell like my aunt’s house.

I can already picture my Aunt Della and Uncle Mike in my mind, as well as the interior of that tiny house, and the incredible red roses that grew in profusion all along the backyard fence. So many associations set off by thinking about Noxema. But I digress.

“Radiation therapy” is a euphemism. What it means is that a part of your body is zapped with radiation to kill off any stray cancer cells that might be lurking in the neighborhood, i.e., breast, where your tumor(s) grew. There will be damage to your healthy cells and skin as well as the cancer cells.

The literature says that the cancer cells will die, but your healthy cells will repair themselves, although my radiation oncologist did mention in passing that sometimes radiation therapy causes cancer. She said that with a casual shrug of her shoulders.

Radiation poisoning is what it is.

When we boomers were children and living in the constant fear of nuclear war, we thought of radiation as a bad thing. We heard about and saw pictures of the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and were horrified.

Now I’m supposed to think of radiation as my friend as I go in for “therapy.”

Because I have a frozen right shoulder, I cannot extend my right arm straight over my head. Instead I get my upper arm up as far as I can and placed into an arm stirrup at the head of the table, then bend my elbow and put my hand over my face. This is tolerable for a few minutes.

About the third day I noticed that when radiation was being beamed into my breast, a blue light came through my hand and arm.

When I closed my eyes, it looked purple. The eye that is not covered by my hand and arm does not see any blue light in the room. I need to ask about that.

I was originally told I would have six weeks of radiation. For some reason my radiation oncologist decided to let me off with four weeks. I am happy about this, mostly because I am commuting to Seattle five days a week to be irradiated, and it takes five or six hours, round trip, for a treatment that lasts seconds.

A few wonderful people have volunteered to drive me in to my treatments, and that has been grand. I come home to Marley, and we settle in for the evening. It’s becoming a routine.
This morning I tried giving Marley one of those treats again. She spit it four feet across the kitchen floor. I’m beginning to think she might not like them.

I have never had a dog with such a talent for spitting. I admire it.