?`s and ANNEswers

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Radiation 101

This afternoon I had my first radiation session, and I realized as I walked into the room with the radiation machine that I had no idea what to expect.

Sure, I’d read radiation is a localized approach to eliminating cancer, as opposed to chemotherapy which is a systemic approach. I knew the side effects were less than from chemo with the primary one being fatigue.

I do not like fatigue. It reminds me of those days when I had two sons and two step-daughters in three different schools, and I worked four days a week at the local hospital and cleaned my own house.

But I’d signed a consent form, so it seemed fair to ask the people in the room with me, “What is it?” And as I lay down on a board that is like those they use to carry burly football players off the field – only this one had stirrups for my arms – I learned that radiation is an extremely strong X-ray beam that is aimed at the body part – in my case, the right breast – where the cancer was originally found. Its purpose is to kill any sneaky remaining cancer cells that might have escaped the surgeon’s knife.

Did I mention that the board I lay on was in the middle of a giant machine that groans and creaks and moves around as it sends the X-ray to the right spot? It must be pretty accurate, as I wore no protective glasses or lead shield on the rest of my body.

I’m sure this description wouldn’t pass medical muster, but that’s all right. I have thirty-two more sessions, so there’s plenty of time to master the technicalities.

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