The Beginning of the End

Today Todd and I visited the radiation oncology department at the University of Colorado Hospital. We met the radiation oncologist, her resident (cute!), and a med student who mostly stood in the background. The two doctors got to take my history and examine me, but the med student only got to watch. Maybe students never get to do an exam? Or maybe there wasn’t enough time? At this point, I don’t care—so many doctors have examined me in front of my husband that it seems normal.

After that, I had a CT and four tiny black tattoos so the radiation technicians could decide exactly where the radiation beams should go. The doctor came in and pasted metal strips around my right breast; the laser can get through fabric but not metal. One of the techs showed me the picture, and I said, “Amazon!” It was impressive.

I will be having 6 weeks of radiation to the right breast around the incision, to part of the area where lymph nodes were removed under my right arm, and to my chest below the collarbone. Radiation is “local” therapy designed to destroy any remaining cancer cells, as opposed to the “systemic” therapy (chemo).

Next time I won’t be wearing a skirt and sandals. It was cold in that room.

Now I have 4 tattoos, 4 incisions of varying lengths, and one thick bruise the size of an egg in my right breast (no drain for lumpectomies, I guess, though I had a drain for the lymphectomy). My right arm is still pretty tight, but I’ve started physical therapy, and the exercises seem to help.

I wanted to show you the ON-Q Painbuster that was installed during surgery. I wore it for 6 days. See the length of tubing by the measuring tape? About 8–10 inches of that was inside my body. It functions like a drip line; the black areas dripped anesthetic into my right side.

breast cancer triple negative

Todd had to pull it out. That was probably one of the more disgusting experiences of his life. It didn’t hurt me, but I bet it made him a little queasy.