Today is my sixth out of 21 radiation treatments. This is to prevent the recurrence of my stage II triple negative breast cancer. I get up on the table and the two ladies direct me to scooch downward for my head to meet the headrest. What does radiation feel like? Well, the first day I thought I experienced some tingling after the treatment, but by the third day, my breast feels like it is on fire some of the time. They tell me to put my arms over my head and interlace my fingers on a metal bar above my head. I do as I am told. The machine moves easily around my body, never touching me but having a powerful presence — a presence to remind me that I have/had cancer and doing these treatments is to prevent the 15-40% chance of recurrence. There are no guarantees in life, and I know this even more being diagnosed at the age of 36.
My favorite part of my radiation treatments is getting to look up at the ceiling. On my first day of radiation treatment was in January at 8 a.m. in Edmonton, Alberta. I lay down and thought, “What a lovely view of the sky,” and then thought, “Wait a second, it is still dark out!” The radiation department is also in the basement and would not have a skylight. When I do get to see the ceiling (because the machine is often in the way of my view), it reminds me of sunny days. There is lighting behind these extremely realistic tiles of wispy clouds. At points if I stare long enough I think I can see the wispy clouds move. I love this and it is what I am focusing on to keep me returning for more burning pain. I think of when I was in elementary school and would lie in the grass staring up at the sky trying to decide what the shapes in the clouds are with carefree timelessness. I long for that perspective that I had, when times were simpler.
As I get off the table today, one of the ladies says to me, “What do you have planned for the rest of the day?” I say, “Just rest today,” and she says, “I’m jealous!”
I just look at her and say calmly, “No you aren’t. Don’t say that. No one wants my cup of tea.”
I didn’t really give her a chance to respond and left the room to change. I know she did not mean anything by it and was trying to make small talk, but what a thoughtless thing to say! Do you know what my days are filled with — burning pain and waiting! I’m waiting for my treatment to be over so I can return to “normal life”. So I can return to more joy-filled activities such as hiking with my dog, going to work, and visiting family and friends. Due to COVID the rest of the world is also waiting to visit their family and friends; however, I still think your life is better — the life without cancer. Don’t you?