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Radiation Side Effects And Coping Stragedies
Radiogists Oncologists Talks About Radiation
Today, I am getting ready to go through radiation? I always thought radiation would be a breeze. I did my research to assure I had complete control this adventure. I used the Susan G Komen foundation and the American Cancer Society as resources. After two go rounds with chemotherapy I have the side effects and terminology for chemotherapy assimilated into my life. Radiation is a new adventure. I like adventure in moderation. Usually I start adventure by following a trail of my own choosing. This is not of my choosing. I didn't have radiation after my first go with breast cancer. At the time it was thought a mastectomy and chemotherapy was sufficient. The first tumor seemed small enough a for a lumpectomy to be sufficient, but there was a question a mastectomy seemed better. This choice was made since our kids were little. After the biopsy all I could think was, "Get this stuff out as soon as possible and be done with it." I didn't have time for cancer. There was no time for cancer the second round either. After 15 years of cancer freedom there was a spot. I had dutifully gone to the oncologist every year. She asked me questions, examined me and sent me on my merry way. Then a new oncologist took over when the original retired. He is an interesting guy. At our first meeting he just stared at my arm. Then he finally said," Have you ever been checked for vitamin "D" deficiency"? He caused me to think about vitamin D long before anyone else I knew. Indeed there was a vitamin D deficiency.
There are frequently long periods of silence during appointments with this doctor. I found out completely by accident during those times he is expecting me to ask questions. Once I discovered he was giving me time to ask questions appointments went must smoother. Once we established some common ground my faith and trust in him grew. He is a bicyclist too. He is considered an excellent scientist by his colleagues. I personally, choose excellent scientist over nice doctor when it comes to my life. This scientist, his good thinking, and my good nutrition and exercise has brought me this day to radiation and hopefully many years of cancer free living.
The radiation is a two three punch to finish off the cancer. Dr C has been telling me for two years radiation was coming. Nonetheless, I am not a happy camper.
Side Effects from radiation can be similar to a burn, may include fatigue, nausea, fever, chills and itching.The most common is skin irritation. The location of treatments and your general health will make a difference in side effects.
For once being older has some benefits. Risks for younger people are higher because their cells are more susceptible to damage. (This is true for just about anything) The cancer is in my sternum. My major concern about radiation is heart and lung damage. When the doctor said, "The likelihood of heart and lung damage was in the single digits". I asked him to repeat himself. That was a relief.
In sever instances radiation can cause pneumonia. The pneumonia would not be viral or bacterial, it would be radiation induced and the treatment would be steroids instead of antibiotics.
The most common side effect is skin irritation with redness, soreness, itching, peeling and swelling. All these side effects are aggravating, but not insurmountable.
Coping With Side Effects
Life is a journey. Undergoing radiation is like taking a trip. Staying healthy during a trip requires some planning. When traveling there are certain things to do to avoid jet lag. This strategy will help with radiation side effects as well. The most important of these thing is to be well hydrated in advance of your trip as well as during the trip.
To do this, increase the amount of water you drink and use moisturizer. Any moisturizer that your skin tolerates is good. Aloe Vera, and Aquaphor were lotions the radiologist suggested. For itching use over the counter hydro-cortisone cream. Miaderm
The doctor said, "Use whatever moisturizer your skin tolerates well. Aloe Vera is good. Treat your skin as you would a sunburn. Keep treated areas out of the sun. Notify us if you have pain or are uncomfortable". .
Other coping methods are:
- Manage pain with Tylenol or any medication your doctor recommends. Take the pain medicine before you have turned into a knot writhing with pain.
- Hydrate. ( Drink, Drink, Drink, if you feel nauseous drink water or juice but drink) You are dealing with burns and your body needs fluids. I can not stress this enough. Pain is intensified and general malaise is increased unless you stay hydrated.
- Exercise (Find a friend to agonize with) My life is built around exercise and for me,this has been challenging. Burned hurts. .
- Moisturize (This is redundant, but the more you moisturize the better your skin feels.)
- Leave treatment site uncovered as much as possible. When covered make sure clean soft cotton is the first layer or Teflon coated bandages.
- Get plenty of rest.You will get tired. (procrastinators who pack the night before a trip don't do this well, so time management is essential.)
- Positive attitude (Going through T.S.A. security will try your patience just like radiation) don't let health challenges ruin your life. Plan around days you don't have energy.
- Get help when you need it. Would you think twice about hiring a moving company to move you from one state to another? No, of course not. Ask for help if you need it. Join a support group if you don't have a strong support team already.
- If you have radiation burn Domeboro is amazing. I will repeat, Domeboro is amazing. Ask your radiologist for specific instructions. A year ago it was difficult finding Domeboro soaks at drug stores.. One year later, there has been no difficulty finding Domeboro. It's many uses make this a standard in my medicine cabinet.
Futher Down the Journey Frustration
After the initial consultation with the radiologist, and the positioning which, takes about an hour each comes the initial treatment that includes a tattoo. This treatment took about 25 minutes. The daily treatments are about 10 minutes. This is where the frustration sets in. I have a bad attitude about this taking so little time. It takes me 20 minutes to get there.
I hope your laughing at how silly that my biggest frustration is driving 20 minutes for a 6 minute appointment.
OK, I will put myself on a time out and get an attitude adjustment. (I am back) New attitude:
I am grateful I can have these appointments, I am grateful that I can get to the appointments.
Time to focus on the solution not the problem.
An audio book I can only listen to while going to radiation might be nice. I do have a favorite radio channel. This won't last forever :)
When the treatments are completed, there are still burns to deal with. I wasn't going to have any side effects. I was going to fly through radiation, but it didn't go as planned. So take it easy. Healing my take a couple of weeks, but you will. I can attest to this. Today just shy of three months after radiation I went on a bicycle ride with some friends. I had done the same ride a month after radiation,it was all I could do to get home then sleep the rest of the day. Today I couldn't believe how short the ride seemed. Yahoo for health!
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