BY: Jennifer Angarano Ricci – “Ms. Happy, Alive & Built to Survive”
Well, a few weeks after taking my chances in Vegas (yeah, I lost big time, but I got to see my sister, Shari, so really, I won- just not money), I was ready to start radiation treatments.
Right after chemo was done, I had my simulation, which is when the radiation techs set the machine up for your treatments and programs it, measures you, tattoos you and all kinds of other fun things. That way, I was ready to just jump right in (or ON) when the date to start came along. Then, I had four weeks off to recover a bit.
My start date was May 29th, because Memorial Day was on the 28th, and you get holidays off. Treatments were to be Monday-Friday for 33 treatment days. Out of the 33 treatments, 25 would be whole breast radiation, and then I would have 8 boost treatments (which are treatments of higher radiation targeted to the tumor area). I have to be honest here, I wasn’t looking forward to going to treatments five days/ week, BUT, at least they were short treatments, and they didn’t involve injecting me with poison through a port in my chest. I guess you have to look at the pros of every situation…
Short-term side effects of radiation can be: fatigue, some redness to the treatment area, fluid build-up in the treated area, burning of skin and skin breakdown. Skin infections can occur.
Long-term side effects of radiation can be: Skin fibrosis (thickening and hardening of skin in the treated area), lymphedema, and even secondary cancer (although the likelihood is very small, and can take decades to develop- but still sucky).
Radiation treatments went well in the beginning, except for one memorable moment when the machine stopped as my treatment started! Talk about awkward moments! They had to shut down the machine, and reboot it twice before it started working again- all with me laying on my stomach with my boob hanging down on the table (because I was already in position for treatment and couldn’t move). I always say that after having a baby, all modesty is gone- but really it all goes down the drain when a random repair guy has to come in the room to reboot the machine you’re on, while you’re lying there with your boob hanging out for the world to see!
My skin held up pretty well during the treatments…until I got to the last week. You know when you’re in a hurry to get somewhere and then hit all the red lights on the way? It was kind of like that. I was in the home stretch, almost done, when I developed an internal skin infection. Thank Goodness that the skin on the outside stayed intact, because it really could have been worse. I had to take a week off from treatments, and take an antibiotic- but then- I was going to be done! The doctor modified my boost treatments so that I would only have a five-day schedule to finish, and that was the best news ever.
I have to give a HUGE Thank You to everyone who prayed for me, thought of me, sent me white light, sent me a note, text or email to check up on me, etc. It all made a difference in how I got through chemo and radiation. They say that attitude is SO IMPORTANT while going through life’s trials, and it’s SO TRUE, but even in my dark times, I had people helping to hold me up- and I am both so grateful- and so ready to be there for any of you!
Well, now you’ve all been through the “big treatments” part of my journey back to health- but the journey doesn’t end when the treatments do…so…
PS– During that last week of radiation treatments, I baked the techs a batch of my famous scones, because food ALWAYS makes people happy-and it my way of saying, “Thanks!” Here’s the recipe:
Jennifer Angarano Ricci is a wife, mother & creative soul-searcher. She is a musician, artist, and baker, and runs her home business Baked By Jen, in addition to running her local community theater group. She loves to sing, create and help others, and tries to connect all three passions whenever possible.