Friday, December 23, 2011
Six weeks later, when it came time to begin radiation therapy, I turned to Google images once again. I know, I know. But it turns out that I could only find one picture of a radiation burn on someone being treated for breast cancer. I'm not sure why that is, maybe people are just shy because the side effects from radiation aren't that pretty, but I'm a person that thinks it's helpful to see the worst so that I can prepare for it.
A few years ago, my friend went through radiation treatment and I saw his burns. His neck ended up looking bright red, something akin to a severe sunburn. But his situation and mine were different. I was told before treatment that places where the skin folds or stretches regularly are more prone to blistering and skin breaks. Also, having to wear a bra over irritated skin can cause pain.
In any case, I was curious, so I've decided to post a few pictures showing my skin while it was peeling and at its peak burn period. It's kind of gross, but it's not as horrific as I once thought it might be. Also, I wanted to show that it was manageable because of my frequent moisturizing and pleading with it. Each day for the last couple weeks, I'd apply my radiation cream and say aloud, "Please don't bleed. Please don't bleed. PLEASE don't bleed."
The first side effect that really threw me was the peeling. It doesn't peel like a sunburn; instead, the skin comes off all at once. One evening three weeks into treatment, I was rubbing moisturizer onto my chest, and when I pulled my fingers away I had a white paste of skin all over my hand. It shed copious amounts of white flakes over me and the shirt I was wearing. It was definitely scary. But it only happened a few times and didn't hurt. The burns, however, eventually did hurt and, also, in a different way than a typical sunburn. The skin on my side under my arm was the worst and that is displayed in the third picture. I once described my pain as "my side feels like it was hit with a blowtorch, the fold under my breast feels like it's covered in poison ivy, and my nipple feels like I put it in a pencil sharpener." That was only accurate for a short time, though. Also, the red in the pictures doesn't really do justice to the hot pink to bright red to dark brown colors of my changing skin. It was definitely a boob of a different color. Each day, I woke up to an altered, yet equally vivid hue. One side of me looked perfectly normal and the other bizarre. You've heard of the Batman villain Two-Face, right? Well, I was Two-Boob, his radioactive sister.
The superficial side effects end up going away slowly as the skin renews; two weeks after treatment, I still have a tan and my skin is peeling. The harder side effect is the internal pain, which may stay for a little longer or be permanent. That feels like occasional rolling shock waves through my chest, but that's manageable as well. It's chronic but not constant. My only permanent external scars will be my three little freckle-like tattoos: one in the middle of my chest and one on each side of my body (shown in the last picture). And I'm actually kind of fond of them.
Interesting, I read this after I had a chest x-ray this morning.
During the first couple weeks of trying to determine my diagnosis, I had an ultrasound, mammogram, and MRI. One thing that this article doesn't mention, though, is the need for patients to sometimes demand tests. My initial visit to my gynecologist ended with the nurse practitioner telling me that my lump "didn't feel like cancer" and the tests would most likely confirm that. I'm very happy I decided to push for the imaging right away instead of waiting and seeing if the lump was going to change.
Monday, December 19, 2011
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Saturday, November 26, 2011
My weapons in the fight to make radiation burns bearable and keep skin from blistering. My advice to future radiation patients is Radiaguard, Radiaguard, and more Radiaguard. It's a prescription lotion that kept my skin from splitting open. I'm in love with it!
Friday, November 18, 2011
Thursday, November 3, 2011
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Sunday, October 16, 2011
Thursday, October 13, 2011
I agree, Kanye, and that's why I've decided to put together a CancerGirl soundtrack including all of the songs that would be the perfect backdrop to kicking some bad guy ass.
"Cochise" by Audioslave
The magic of this song lies solely within the first minute. The buildup between the quiet chaos that begins the song to the screaming lead guitar that joins the building crescendo 48 seconds later is perfect superhero intro music. I remember thinking the first time I heard the song that the lead guitar should signal a tough protagonist's slow-mo "don't-step-outta-line-or-I'll-kick-your-ass" walk out of the foggy darkness of some back alley. Very Christian Bale First Knight vibe but with a chick in thigh-high black leather boots. You get the idea.
"Boys Wanna Be Her" by Peaches
As soon as I thought of CancerGirl, I thought of this song. It's on the soundtrack to Whip It, a movie about a girl joining a roller derby team. It's perfection for superhero status. Lyrics, pounding drums, ragged guitar, panting . . . yes, I said panting. Check it out. "You've got them all by the balls." All girls should love this song.
"Le Disko" by Shiny Toy Guns
I love me some Shiny Toy Guns, especially four years ago. Futuristic superhero? Makes me think of Janet Jackson from the "Scream" video she did with Michael. "Hold on to me, pretty baby, if you wanna fly." I feel like this could also be a laser tag team's theme song. Maybe not be as cool as some other songs I have listed, but I'm sticking with it.
"Supermassive Black Hole" by Muse
While listening to this, you should probably be wielding a supermassive black whip, yes?
"Temptation Waits" by Garbage
"I'll tell you something. I am a wolf, but I like to wear sheep's clothing." Shirley Manson. Now, that's a tough chick. This whole album is unbelievable.
"Teeth" by Lady Gaga
My favorite on The Fame Monster. Stomping and clapping. Get it, Gaga.
"Kiss With a Fist" by Florence + the Machine
Whenever I hear the opening lines, I feel the need to grab the nearest breakable object and throw it as hard as I can against the wall. Needless to say, show caution when choosing where to listen.
"Rock Star" by N.E.R.D.
If you need to feel like a badass, play it. Period.
"The Jump Off" by Lil' Kim
"I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)" by Jay-Z
I believe that every woman needs a Strut Song. A Strut Song is a piece of music that instantly inspires you to stand a little straighter, raise your chin, and narrow your eyes. In short, a song that makes you feel like you are the hottest creature that has ever walked this earth. I put these two together because they are my favorites.
"Power" by Kanye West
Thanks for the blog title. Yes, his ego is more inflated than a hot air balloon, but a superhero needs a superhealthy ego.
"Violet" by Hole
Live Through This is included in my list of the top five albums of all time. It's incredibly gritty and angry, and as far from "ladylike" as you can get. Ms. Love in all of her bruised, baby-doll-dress-wearing glory. It also happens to be my favorite "I'm going to scrub this toilet till it shines like it came from Tiffany's" song. Nothing beats angry cleaning music. And, nothing beats the line, "If you live through this with me, I swear that I would die for you." CancerGirl thanks you, Courtney.
I'd love to hear what would be your choice for superhero theme music. What songs should I add to my playlist?