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Radiation regimen fatiguing
A woman undergoing radiation treatment for breast cancer describes her experience

Visit the Photo Place
Date published: 10/29/2006

I 'M A VERY PRIVATE woman and it's against my nature to write about such a personal subject--my treatment for breast cancer.

But I'm doing it because since my diagnosis last March, an overwhelming number of cancer survivors have been there to offer support, prayers and education about cancer, radiation and side effects. They told me of their experiences simply and without horrific detail. If and when I had a problem, I knew that I'd be OK because it had happened to others and would eventually pass.

Because October is breast cancer awareness month, I feel compelled to carry out this "sisterhood" tradition of sharing and giving support.

I want to shout to everyone from the rooftops, "Cancer is curable, and cancer is treatable!" Treatments are uncomfortable sometimes for some people, but the alternative to treatment--doing nothing--is unacceptable.

Survivors tell me that the discomfort mostly disappears after treatment, and I'm glad to hear that. I'm well on my way to the radiation finish line.

Upon diagnosis last March, I decided there were two choices: cry and wonder "Why me?" or cry sometimes and try to find humor and purpose in this cancer journey. Why not me?

In my case, because of other medical problems, the decision was for lumpectomies followed by radiation and hormonal therapy. I underwent lumpectomies in early July, and I started radiation in September.

Radiation treatment is planned uniquely for each patient, so each person will experience unique physical and emotional responses. What I am writing about is my experience as an older woman receiving a "double-whammy dose" of radiation because of cancer in both breasts.

Radiation is an interesting experience. The worst side effect for me has been an incredible fatigue. It's a common side effect, though it's certainly not the only side effect.

My new young friend Karen described no physical reaction from radiation. Instead, she spoke of feelings, of walking down a long hall from the waiting room to the treatment room and feeling "cold, not a person anymore, degraded." She remembered tears coming down her face that went unnoticed. But then she smiled and mentioned how much she appreciated Brian and Gentry, two radiation therapists who talked to her.

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