Radiation, Week 1 (or Week 1/2, if you prefer)

So I wrote I think on Wednesday, when I started, and hadn’t actually gotten any radiation yet. Now I’ve had two days of radiation, so I am practically an expert.

On Thursday, I was browsing one of the cancer groups on Facebook and happened upon a post regarding breastfeeding after radiation. This was something I had previously been concerned about and asked the nurse about during our very first appointment a long time ago. My radiation oncologist – who frankly I am not super fond of, because she always seems to be in a rush and not have enough time to talk to me or answer my questions (like, on Friday she was literally standing with her hand on the doorknob while I was asking questions) – had already left the room and could not be bothered to come back so the nurse kept having to run out to ask her my questions. With regard to breastfeeding, she came back with the answer that “my supply would be lowered.” Ruby has been a super producer, so I was not overly concerned with this answer. After reading the post on Facebook, I started doing some online research and discovered that every study that has been done indicates that women are UNABLE to breastfeed after lumpectomy and radiation because the breast tissue is too changed and damaged. The women in the studies who could produce anything – through either nursing or pumping – largely gave up and nursed only with the untreated breast because the amount produced was so little that it was not worth the time.

This was understandably a big shock to me. I am not crazy about being pregnant but nursing – which I was only able to accomplish with Conor – ranks among my favorite things in the world. I texted Julian about how heartbroken I was. And of course, the day I found this out was the day I started actual radiation treatments, so I didn’t want to do it at all, and when I laid down on the bed I began crying. The techs were super super nice and dabbed my eyes for me (my arms were already above my head and I was all lined up) and told me I didn’t have to start that day if I didn’t want to. The fact is, I didn’t want to start ANY day after learning what I had. I explained why I was so upset and one of them said it was totally understandable, that I was grieving a loss, and I realized that’s exactly what it was. Cancer took the possibility of breastfeeding from my right breast from me. And unless I choose to forego radiation (which would be stupid), that ship has sailed. And it sucks.

ANYhow, I got the radiation, both Thursday and Friday. Thursday I had all sorts of phantom pains – pain in the gallbladder incision, heartburn – and was worried they were radiation related. I had none of them on Friday after radiation, however, so I think they were in my head. My breast did feel a little tender yesterday, but no skin changes yet. ALSO! Dr. InARush told me that only 10% of women experience tissue changes. This doesn’t seem accurate since EVERY woman I spoke with in the Seattle BC group mentioned changes, but perhaps it’s only 10% of women receiving the type of radiation I am. So that gave me hope that I won’t be disfigured by this. She also said it’s all about your body’s ability to heal itself, and my body has always healed quickly and well. So, fingers crossed!

That’s all the boob news I have for now. Onwards!

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