Cancer Survival - Jane's Story: Radiation Therapy Video

Jane, who was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer, discusses radiation therapy.
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Jane Heal: I was fortunate I only had to have five weeks of the therapy and it is five days a week so it’s 25 treatments. I had it at the hospital where I work so it’s very handy. It only took about 30 minutes a day and so I had a standing appointment everyday and I’d run downstairs and they knew me and they move through the process pretty well. It’s not bad and they make it as painless as possible but it’s a little uncomfortable the first day. I think I had to lay, I was on a table; on a hard, you know, like an x-ray table for about an hour and a half and I had to lay in exactly the same position, I could not move, so because they were doing the site markings. And also you get tattoos when you have radiation therapy. They do that so they’re permanently marking kind of the spots where they are going to focus the radiation in your body. So I have five little tattoos but they are just dots, they are like the world from really far away like Phoebes tattoo on Friends, remember? Yeah, anyway. No, no, you know and they don’t say you know, I love mama or anything like that but. I have one here, one here, I think it’s kind of three that go down here. I have one on each side. So, anyway they did two or three different like angles when they shot the radiation so you have to position and for each of those angles and basically I do lay on the table and you hold your hands on these bars above there and I had to keep my head this way. One of the things—the thing that probably got me the most is the way they lined me up initially. My spine wasn’t totally straight but that was the way it worked best for the technicians and so what happened is my ass side, my sacroiliac joint went out of place because I would lay there for 30 minutes and be not aligned and so my hips started hurting from that. So everyday I would have to lay there in this position that I knew it was not the right position to be in. Anyway, as far as I knew it wasn’t anatomically correct. Am I making sense? How does radiation therapy treat cancer? Jane Heal: It is just like focused radioactive beams I guess that actually destroy the tissue in the area that the tumor was in. And so when I had my second surgery though, they had gone in the sense they took my entire breast. I had what they called clean margins. I really did not have any remaining questionable cells around the edge of where the tumor had been. So that was why I only had to have the five weeks of the radiation because there was not any refocused, they were focusing on, they were just going in and making sure that he general area where the tumor had been was clean I guess and any potential cancer cells were killed but that is really what it is, it’s jut focused radiation beams. It was only about 30 minutes a day. Once I got passed at first day where they do all the markings and try to decide the different angles and everything to do the radiation. Did you experience side effects from radiation? Jane Heal: I really had nothing real noticeable although it does sort of sap your energy and so I guess I was tired and they were a lot of days, I worked through all the radiation therapies so I put my you day in at the office and come home and a lot of times I just really just wanted to go to bed. But you know; I did not feel particularly ill or anything like that, I just would be tired. One of the side effects though that you do sometimes get is what they call a radiation burn. It’s just like a bad sunburn but it’s from the inside out. It’s not—because the radiation is actually affecting the inside of your tissues and so by radiating that, you are actually burning that area and you get this sort of inside out sunburn. So I was pretty sunburned around my neck here because they were shooting down this way and then under my arm, on my left side, which is where I had the lymph nodes removed. But I did not really experience that until about the last week of the radiation therapy and that was—I used to just a protective ointment o

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