Although a bit early, we were scheduled to meet with my radiation oncologist Dr. "C" this past week in Independence ,right behind where I'll be having my chemo.
Radiation is a highly targeted, and effective way to destroy cancer cells in the breast that may stick around after surgery. Radiation can reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence by about 70%. Although I had surgery, that alone cannot guarantee that every last cancer cell has been removed from my breast area. Radiation therapy uses a high-energy beam to damage cancer cells and normal cells as well. However, cancer cells cannot repair themselves, whereas, normal cells are better able to repair themselves and survive the treatment.
Radiation treatments will not begin until about a month after chemo finishes, but when I do start, I will have 33 treatments of radiation. 25 of those will be directed to my entire upper right chest from just below my breast, over to my sternum, up to just about my collar bone and all underneath my arm to include the lymph nodes. The last 8 treatments will be a "boost" to just my scar site areas (by then they will be a scars). These 33 treatments will take 6 1/2 weeks to complete, going in daily Mon-Friday for about 10-15 minutes each treatment. Once a week I will meet with the Dr. and once a week I have a consult with the oncology nurse to cover skin care, side affects and other issues that might arise. Sunburn and fatigue are the most common side affects to these treatments. Although the doctor did say that some people experience nausea, he didn't expect that to happen. Some damage to the remaining lymph nodes may occur which will increase the risk of lymphodema. The most serious risk I face is scarring on the tip of my lung. That scarring will remain a "monitoring" issue for the rest of my life.
Dave seemed to be comfortable with the nurse and doctor. Maybe I was just having an off day, but I didn't get warm fuzzies with this group. So far, everyone we've met at the Cleveland Clinics have been warm and compassionate and experts in their field. It's not that Dr. C and his nurse, weren't, but .....I don't know, I just didn't have the peace I've had with the others. I may continue to search for a radiation oncologist. I have time.
In the mean time, I have a PET scan this Wednesday (June 17th) at Hillcrest Hospital (a Cleveland Clinic branch). I am praying that there are no surprises. A PET scan is a Positron Emission Tomography nuclear test. A radioactive solution (tracer) will be injected into my veins and then I get to "rest" for about 45 minutes while it travels throughout my body. When they scan me, the dye puts off energy so they can see all my organs and tissue. If there is any cancer present it will light up like Christmas tree lights. I'm hoping my technician doesn't dream of sugar plums while watching my scan.
I will update again once we get results back from the test. Hopefully we know something before I go into the MUGA scan. More on that later.
Thanks for all your prayers as we continue on this journey.