Radiation Completed

by Debbie Twomey on December 13, 2017


It has been too long since I last wrote because the neuropathy in my hands has made typing for any length of time an ordeal. But six weeks is a long time and so much can happen that I needed to share.

I was focused on my scars the last time I wrote. I was in a funk that was not easy to rise above because of complications. But as they say, this too shall pass. I will have gallbladder surgery next month and I am still having difficulty with a fissure, stomach issues, fatigue, and neuropathy. That is my reality.

I also went through my 15 rounds of radiation. It was an interesting experience and I know that sometimes the side effects are long term but my hope is it did its job. The hardest part for me was getting the tattoos. You have to lie on the table very still while they mark you for where the radiation will be focused. If I had had the mastectomy it would not have been so difficult— or comical.

They have to mark above and under you breast and get just the right coordinates each and every time (you know like the ones we saw in all those war movies where the bombers need the exact coordinates to destroy the enemy). Well as most of you know I am very large breasted. That was hard enough but the boobs seem to have a mind of their own and move quite randomly. So getting those marks just right was a trial. You have to put your arms above your head and hold onto a grabber while they work. Well these arms could go up slowly but because of my Rheumatoid Arthritis; getting them down could be painful. They would lock and snap so it was something that needed to be done slowly and carefully.

The technicians had a grand old time measuring this girl. What should have taken about 30 minutes ended up almost 90. They finally got all the tattoos set and I was good to go for my first round of radiation the next week. I will say this much, the staff at Upstate Oncology in Syracuse was not only very patient, they were extremely kind and caring. I wish I could remember my one-liners (with chemo fog I remember so little these days) but I had them all in stitches while they worked. I told them preparing someone my size is a challenge and one of them should do a write up for future techs so they know how to do it efficiently.

I had my radiation treatments at Oswego Radiation Oncology and it was a very pleasant experience. The staff was very caring but you know, I don’t even remember one of their names. How did that happen? I usually pay attention to things like that but I did not this time. I have no reason either. Maybe it was because you are so vulnerable on that table, and it only lasts about 10 minutes. I am not sure why, but it is really not like me at all. As I write I can only remember the receptionist and PA’s names. Darn! 






I had minimal side effects thank you God. My breast got a bit red, slightly pinched skin getting tighter and one MRSA outbreak that was very small and went away quickly. Dr. Banashkevich was excellent and addressed all my concerns about my skin infections and what protocol was best for me. He followed up promptly and it all went better than I expected.

I may worry a bit about what could happen in the future but for now I feel good about this line of defense against my Invasive Ductile Carcinoma (IDC). I would be remiss if I did not understand the possibilities so I will share that information too.

Kinds of side effects you may experience over the course of your radiation treatment:

There may also be long term effects including secondary cancer at the radiation site but that is only 8% of patients (prayers here).

Changes to the skin

Long term changes to the breast-edema or lymphedema

Restricted arm and shoulder movement

Risk to heart muscle especially is left breast radiated

Possible lung problems


  • Fatigue
  • Sluggishness
  • Increased sensitivity to cold
  • Constipation
  • Pale, dry skin
  • A puffy face
  • Hoarse voice
  • An elevated blood cholesterol level
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness
  • Pain, stiffness or swelling in your joints
  • Muscle weakness
  • Heavier than normal menstrual periods
  • Brittle fingernails and hair
  • Depression
  • Numbness, pain and weakness in the arm

You learn early on to go through this journey one day at a time. You try not to focus on what could be if it’s negative. But for me, that is simply ridiculous because you must accept the good with the bad or the possibility. In order to accept that the future could mean being cured you must also understand there could be other outcomes. I am no Mary Poppins and I do not see life through rose colored glasses. I get all the information I can handle, I digest it and then I go forward putting each component in a place that I can cope with most capably. I feel good after my radiation and I choose to believe the radiation hit its target. If something comes up in the future I will deal with that then.

I earned this wonderful certificate they give you when you complete your radiation.   

I have 9 more chemotherapy sessions left that will take me through to March of 2018. I am not sure what the next step is but Dr Benjamin will discuss it with me when the time comes. I don’t want to be overanxious but all of these choices are so that I will one day hear the words, “Cancer free.”


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