Radiant with Radiation by: Kimberley Wahamaa
My radiation therapy sessions began on Monday January 13, 2014. I had 25 radiation treatments with 5 radiation boost treatments, a total of 30 treatments. A friend of mine who has gone through breast cancer suggested that I call the Canadian Cancer Society to arrange for a driver for my treatments. It cost me $100 but it was the best advice and investment I could have imagined. A volunteer driver picked me up at my work and took me to my appointment and brought me back to work for 30 sessions. I was stress free of the hassle of driving, parking, walking 6 blocks lol, I felt like it was driving Miss Kimmi to the Spa:) lol,,, hot & radiant… I would encourage you to call the Canadian Cancer Society at 705-670-1234 and ask for Paula, she will arrange to set you up. I had the most wonderful drivers, some great chats about their lives and why they volunteer.
When you check in at the radiation desk, you provide your health care card each time and you are given a yellow sheet with your schedule for the week. This is subject to change, but for the most part it didn’t change very often. If you have a conflict, you are able to let the booking clerk know to change it up. During your first week you will also receive a radiation orientation session that is very helpful to educate you about these treatments. The booking clerks are very kind and accommodating and make you feel at home…lol.. well it is not home, but you do feel a sense of welcome and comfort, as you are very anxious and nervous at the beginning. The first session you will be tattoo’d literally in four spots where they will line you up for the radiation treatments. They mark the tatoo’s with a marker each day so don’t scrub them off too quickly in the shower, as they will remark you. You will meet with your radiation oncologist once a week to review your condition. The difference between chemo and radiation is that you are going every day, Monday to Friday and you get to meet some amazing individuals going through the same Shit that you are, and everyone seems to be open to tell their story, and I was blessed to meet some great people during this wait time, thank you for your friendships. Together we will and we did get through these sessions.
Once you are called from the registration room, you then proceed to a change room area, where you have to remove your boots and everything from the waist up, put on a couple of gowns, one open to the back the other to the front. I always tried to get the same locker to put my things, and it had a key with a wrist bracelet. Every week you will enter your information into the ESAS computer software, this will ask you various questions about your state of mind, your level of pain, if you are anxious or tired or you don’t have an appetite. It is a very beneficial program to help the oncologist know your state of coping that particular week that you meet with them.
The radiation therapists were unbelievable. I felt like I was in a computer program game where they were firing off numbers and rays of light and were so enthusiastic and pumped about lining me up and measuring me. Excellent, yes that looks great, definitely lined up, at 47.2, 10.2 to the left, all these measurement numbers coming out and re-checking with each other, and they had such a positive spirit about them, you felt at ease knowing they were in control of your treatments and loving what they do best. There are about 40 therapists onsite with 5 radiation machines.
If you are interested in becoming a radiation therapist here is some information about the programs that are offered.
Michener Institute: http://www.michener.ca/ft/rad_therapy.php
And the Laurentian University affiliate program: http://laurentian.ca/program/radiation-therapy
The actual setup of the radiation process takes time, you lay back with your arms over your head and they measure you up – centre, to the left, etc, for about 10-15 minutes, measuring, checking, sometimes an x-ray, a sponge pillow under your legs, a strap across your belly to hold you secure, lights on, lights off, looking up at an image, holding still, you can’t move, or squirm, or sneeze or fart lol…I found myself thinking about Mexico on the beach, I moved my toes and my fingers when I felt the urge to move something… and then the radiation begins, it sounded like you were in an elevator and the door was trying to shut and that buzz noise began for a few minutes. The machine would hover over you from side to side, and then inbetween would sound like an exhaust sound of a air freshener in a restaurant washroom where it exhausts an air sound. Piff….Paaaaahhh…
This is a photo of what you look up at in the radiation boost treatments. The regular radiation machine above had a similar image, but unfortunately when they installed the new machine the image was upside down. If I have a suggestion from this experience, please change up the image to the correct side so a patient is looking at a peaceful imagery rather than..WTF it’s upside down. The only other suggestion would be to have a spa type music playing in the background rather than the radio, as a couple of times the music was distorted and a few times the song Radioactive was played..and it just didn’t seem right to be listening to these lyrics while you were being zapped. LOL:)
This is the machine for the 5 boost treatments, it helps zero in on the incision to zap the area affected. This was more intense, different therapists assisting, and measuring but the buzz sound more more like a dentist drill, and it wasn’t as long. Amazing therapists once again, making you feel at ease and at peace. It was cold at times and their hands touching you with a ruler or a marker made you jump alittle, but in the end we know that this will help you, so you deal with it. I worked every day throughout radiation, I also executed one of our largest events during radiation our Community Builders Awards http://www.cbawards.ca Yes I felt tired at times, my legs felt heavy like they were 100 pounds each, but I continued to try to be as normal as possible, to help me conquer this chapter. Plus I had an event to produce. I went to camp every weekend, and even sledded into our remote camp, I couldn’t wear a bra for a few weeks so when we went sledding I put a tenser bandage around my boobs to hold them tight. My saving grace for the burns was Nature’s Aid I would highly recommend this product that is produced here in Sudbury to all Cancer patients undergoing radiation.
Sledded with my niece Lora Wahamaa to our remote camp during radiation. Try to live your life with some normal activity, don’t dwell on the “C” word, be embraced by your loved ones, your family, your colleagues, your social media friends, do whatever you need to do to feel accepted as YOU! Bald is Beautiful, hey if men can be bald naturally every day, why can women? be it cancer or no cancer! no fuss, no shampoo, no straightener, lol! Live life to the fullest every day, even if you don’t have an illness, because 1 in 9 women will experience what I am right now. I don’t believe there will be a cure, but I do believe each and every one of us can trust our bust to know if something is not right – GET IT CHECKED OUT! Power of the patient, request the testing, etc. You know your body. Act upon it!
Burns under the breast and armpit – it was unbearable to wear a bra. Check Wigboutique.ca Jo-Anne will have some products to help with this and some clothing, some of the proceeds will go to Angels in Pink.
I’m done my treatments as of February 24, 2014. I will now be taking Tamoxifen one a day for 10 years.
Visit the beginning of my story
and Coping with Chemo…
Radiant with Radiation… Yes I felt warm, hot flashes, burning, but overall radiant to know that I’m now DONE with treatments. Rang the bell with my step daughter Mariah and my colleague Michelle. Thanks for being with me on my last day of treatments.
Thank you to everyone for your love and support. I am blessed to know you and cherish your friendships. I encourage you to trust your bust and help spread the word to everyone! If you know of someone who wants to share their story, let me know. God Bless, and thank you Grandma, I know you were with me every step of the way, Love you K xoxo