I suppose it’s not a coincidence that today is the first day of public school in Portland. Because I’m telling you, going back to radiation, after having 4 days off, felt exactly like the end of summer vacation: the end of freedom, of possibility, of fun, and only dread and work and social anxiety in front of you. That might be just a tiny, slight exaggeration (of back-to-school and radiation), but the point is, I did not want to go.
At first, I regretted taking Friday off from treatment, especially because I knew I would have Monday off, too. I didn’t want to push off my end date any further than necessary – I wanted to just plow through it, get ‘er done, and move on to the next thing. I felt like I was being a bit of a wimp, taking it too easy on myself.
Funny thing, about those radiation oncologists: they’re a smart lot. When Dr. C took one look at my skin and all but ordered me to leave, she was on to something. My breast is now hot pink, pretty much all over. My areola looks like plastic, the giveaway look of skin that has been burned off and is showing its underbelly. My armpit is broken and raw and there are several layers of skin visible, some dead and still sluffing off, some alive and trying to push through. Everything hurts, sleeping is all I want to do but damn near impossible to do comfortably, and I’m afraid to shower because of the water pressure. So yeah. I needed a break.
I’m not sure what I thought was going to happen during those four days, though. Something miraculous, maybe? I kept thinking about how Dr. C said it was going to get worse before it got better, and how there’s a delay of 3-5 days between treatment and signs of treatment. So I guess I thought my body would really catch up in those 4 days, display all the signs of my treatment so far, and then be on the mend. I don’t know how long it takes for something like this to heal, so I guess I was a bit optimistic.
Carle is on vacation in Minnesota for the week. I miss her already. But I got to hang out with Barb, another radiation therapist and perhaps the kindest lady one could ever hope to meet. She looked at my skin and predicted that there’s going to be more peeling, especially in my armpit area, and said, once again, that it’s going to get worse before it gets better. STILL!
I swear, I almost started crying. It was all I could do to go to the hospital today. Kara took the day off from work, and at one point, I seriously thought she might have to toss me over her shoulder, potato sack style, and throw me in the back of her truck to get me there. I felt the same sort of dread I felt on the first day of treatment, only this time, I knew what to expect. I felt like I was walking a gauntlet of sorts. A dramatic gauntlet, admittedly. But still. It’s paralyzing, to know how much it hurts and how uncomfortable it is and to know that it is as mentally difficult as it is physically difficult, and just saunter right to it. I wanted to spring in the other direction.
So when I heard those words from Barb’s gentle mouth… I just felt crushed. At what point will somebody tell me that it’s just going to get better, with no more getting worse first? When do I get to just rest in the knowledge that the immediate damage to my body is done, and that it can set about healing with no further harm?
Today was my last day of general treatment: my overall breast tissue treatment is done. Starting tomorrow, we will zoom on in the lumpectomy bed. I’m glad, knowing my armpit won’t have to take any more pain, and that at least the abrasions will be able to start healing. But the full dose of that radiation is now going to be aimed at a small spot in my body. That one space, right behind my areola, which has already sustained so much damage… how much more can it take? How much more can I take?
I’m just ready to be done. I’m. Ready. To. Be. Done.
And one week from today, if all goes as planned, I will be.