Friday, June 1, 2012

Our Cancer Journey Week 24

Although I typically publish an update about our Cancer Journey on Thursdays, I'm publishing it on Friday because Kathy's radiation oncology planning meeting was scheduled for today.

As I noted last week, although she is in complete remission after chemotherapy and surgery, the reason for radiation therapy is to reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence.

She'll receive radiation to the area of the left breast  at the site of the original tumor as well as radiation to the axillary lymph node that showed micro-metastasis.    On June 6, they'll complete the simulation, including placing small tattoos on her body to ensure consistent alignment of the equipment.   On June 14, she'll begin treatment and continue with daily dosing 5 days a week until she completes 33 doses.  

Accounting for vacations or scheduling issues, she should be done by August 1.

As part of her planning meeting, we reviewed all the risks and benefits of radiation therapy.  Common short term reactions include redness/pain at the site of therapy (similar to a sunburn), skin darkening, tiredness, temporarily hair loss under the arm, and fleeting aches/pains in the breast.    Uncommon short term reactions include skin blistering and low blood count.   Common long term reactions include discomfort of the treated area, swelling, and skin changes.   Uncommon/rare long term reactions include rib fractures, lung inflammation, nerve damage, inflammation of the lining of the heart (which is under the left breast), and tumors caused by radiation.

We signed the consent based on the great benefits (up to 60% reduction in recurrence likelihood) and acceptable common risks.

Kathy continues to do well - her hair is growing back, her energy is returning, and her neuropathy is improving.  The numbness in her fingers is now pins/needles, and her feet hurt but she can complete all her planned activities without requiring pain medication.

For 20 years I've joked with Kathy that she should get a tattoo.   Next week she gets several small ones (alignment dots).   Not exactly edgy artwork nor the tattoos that we ever speculated she would get.   However, they will be a lasting memory of our cancer journey and ensure her radiation dosing will be accurately targeted.

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