First, let me say this to my parents and siblings—I’m okay. (I know everyone cares, but c’mon, it’s my Mommy, Daddy, Nana, Jelliot, and Brick.) This isn’t one of those moments where I say I am, but I’m not. To be blunt, yes, this week was awful. I was feeling pain habitually. I only have 7 of the 60 Vicodin pills left. However, I am feeling leagues better than I was at the beginning of the week. I am on the upswing. So while I appreciate any sympathy—the pictures do look bad—you are no longer allowed to stress about the radiation stuff.
Second, I want to share some information. I came across a really great forum post by a Radiation Oncologist that explains what actually happens to the skin during radiation. Here is the link to that post*. If you want to spend some time reading some pretty dry material, here is the link that explains how the Common Toxicity Criteria is calculated.
Also, I took some pictures of me in the Xeroform that I wrote about in my last radiation post.
Now for the radiation damage. I took pictures every couple of days to better document the week. Remember, this is not everyone’s experience. My radiation oncologist was quite aggressive with the treatment for many reasons.
- The skin was very tight and hot. It hurt whenever I moved. I was on a steady stream of Vicodin every four hours. I would wake up in the middle of the night and take a pill.
- This was probably the worst day. I was still in a lot of pain. I had shed the first layer of burnt skin and was on to the next layer. Now when I moved, I could feel the skin separating. It was so gross and painful. Not having lotion on was agony. With the lotion on, my skin felt sweaty and itchy. My nerves kept yelling at me to take a shower to get the irritants off my skin. My brain knew that a shower would not help and would probably just dry out the rest of my skin. So, I kicked back into my chair to doze and bitch.
- I was starting to feel better. There was still some peeling, but no more cracking skin. I had dropped down to taking one Vicodin every six hours. I started doing stretches with my right arm. It was really tight and I was afraid that I would lose range of motion if I didn’t push it a bit.
- It is really clear in the pictures that I’m starting to mend. I don’t have any open wounds. The skin is starting to look pink again. I took one Vicodin all day.
I forgot to mention in the last post that the radiology team gave me a certificate and two lapel pins on my last day of treatment.
They handed me the pink pin. I said something along the lines of at least this is a pin color people will recognize and mentioned that I’d had Hogkin’s previously. So they gave me two pins. Everyone there was always so sweet. The two technicians (the ones in the video) I usually worked with, Ashley and Megan, gave me a very gentle hug before I left.
When my husband picked me up at the front door after that last treatment, he brought me a bouquet of roses. I kept them on the table next to me this whole week while I healed. They smelled wonderful.
It has been a very rough week, but I’m starting to feel pretty good again. 97% of the soreness is gone. The stretching allowed me to be able to raise my arm over my head without pain again. I see the doctor this Friday for my skin check. Until then, I am going to keep up with the lotion to help the skin heal as fast as it can.
*The original post was on Cancer Compass