I know you’ve been waiting on it. Well, here it is. My radiation experience. I’ve been a radiation oncologist who treats breast cancer patients for over 15 years. I must admit, it felt very strange being on the other side.
Going through all of this got rid of any modesty I had. I can lift up my shirt and show my breasts to anyone now. I had 6 different radiation therapists, both male and female, students, nurses, residents and doctors who looked at my breasts during my six weeks of treatment. Since finishing my treatment, I’ve even shown other patients my reconstruction and skins changes from radiation.
The treatments are painless. The treatment table is very hard. I was a little nervous every time the beam came on. I was worried about the same things all patients worry about. “ Will my skin burn?”, “Are they treating the right area?” I found myself tensing up on the table and holding my breath while the beam was on. I had to consciously tell myself to relax with each treatment. Oddly enough, the anxiety didn’t improve with each treatment. I didn’t like the fact that there were so many different therapists treating me and I had to constantly remind the therapists to use the correct sponge under my knees. I think that had something to do with the amount of anxiety I had.
The biggest pain was getting there every morning for treatment. My treatment time was at 7:30 a.m. Big mistake. I found myself sitting in rush hour traffic every day for 6 weeks. It would take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half to get there every day. I felt bad that I got there late most days.
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My skin tolerated the treatment well. I was familiar with Aquaphor and aloe vera gel, so I decided to try a new cream that this clinic used called Remedy Skin Repair Cream. It had a nice scent and it felt good going on the skin. It was not greasy or thick and it didn’t dry and flake. I put it on after each treatment and again after I took a shower at night. I started to notice some darkening of my skin after the third week of treatment.
By week five, I developed intense itching on my breast. I used the cream about four to five times a day to help with the itching. By the time I finished treatment, my skin was tender and very dark. My skin continued to darken and turned black under my arm and in my cleavage after I finished treatment.
I noticed after I finished treatment, my washcloth would look very dirty after each shower. The dark skin was peeling off and I noticed my skin getting lighter and lighter each day. My skin is almost completely back to normal. It’s still a shade darker than the other breast, but much better.
I got a little tired during treatment. I was still able to work part-time during treatment. My energy level returned to normal within two weeks after treatment was over.
I’m glad the radiation is behind me. The six weeks went by quickly, but I must admit, I don’t miss the daily trip to the doctor’s office.
How did your skin tolerate radiation treatment and what cream did you use?
:I know how my patients feel when they get radiation treatments. I can put them at ease and let them know I’ve been in their shoes.