Keep talking

pink ink…

This week I attended the Phoenix Susan G. Komen Affiliate Promise Luncheon. It was a time for us to recognize the Grantees. Our Grantees provide innovative breast health & breast cancer programs to the medically underserved, uninsured, or underinsured here in AZ. It was emotional as I heard story after story about women who otherwise would not have had access to treatment but for these programs. When asked what women do who can’t afford treatment, the response is that they “quietly die”. Wow! Again, so thankful that I have insurance. As a Board Member, and now a person in the Cancer Lane, I re-dedicated my promise to educate, advocate, and support others.

Side note: Our Affiliate was named Affiliate of the Year out of over 100 affiliates around the world! AWESOME!

Now join me as we take another break for a … real talk MEDICAL MINUTE! I promise it will be brief.

I am finishing my 4th week of radiation! Yay! Remember, radiation is used on the breast to stop any other cells from dividing and growing. When we talk about the cost of breast cancer treatment, here is a little nugget to ponder. My portion of my treatment PER DAY is $584. Now let me remind you that I have to have 30 treatments. You do the math. Let me also say that the last week of treatment will cost more because it is a more intense “dose”. Yes, I have great insurance.

As I’ve mentioned, radiation can definitely affect the skin. Mine started changing colors about a week and ½ ago. It is hard to tell in the picture, but it’s several shades darker than the other breast. It is also spotted. Or, as Lil B says, “speckly”. It can be very sore at night, or when I have worn a bra too long. What is more irritating is the itching! So now I am putting on aloe vera for the burn and cortisone for the itch. Fortunately, I have not lost movement in my arm. I am diligent about going to the gym or working out, every day that I get zapped! Trust me. That is a challenge. Again, the cardio is getting easier. But I still have little to no muscle tone or strength in my arms. I am only lifting 3-5 pds, and doing things like curls and arm circles. I have become one of those women I use to look at and say “Really lady? What is that 3 pd weight doing?” Oh how humbling the Cancer Lane is. (You see I still have a Frankestein scar on the other side where they took out the PORT! My Doc says my skin has changed from the chemo, so it is going to take…a while..for scars to go away.)

Yesterday, I was “fitted” for my boost treatment. This is the “extra strength” treatment that I will receive the last week of radiation. Women who receive this more concentrated dose of radiation are 2x more than likely to be cancer free 10 years after treatment! Sign me up! The down side is that the chance of scar tissue developing increases, along with swelling, redness and tenderness. Anyway, there is a special attachment to the machine to concentrate the beam. To “fit” me, they drew all over the breast and made measurements to figure out exactly where my crazy cancer liked to hang out. Then they took a picture for their records so they can compare it when we actually start. So I took one too! Then they told me…try not to wash off the marker! Seriously!? Let’s just say…”ummm…ok”! (side eye look!) The dots are the markings to direct the beam. The rest…surgery scars. Please note the second scar (the 1 on top) from my most recent surgery that removed the “new” cancer”. So Pretty! Red Ink Michele asked me about sharing such a shocking picture. But this is real talk, real life. The more we talk, the less fear we will have.

So there you have it. Welcome to Radiation 101, the abbreviated version. I’m surviving, tired, burnt, and with no appetite. But surviving!

And I promise to…Keep talking!

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