Sunday, March 21, 2010


I'm starting radiation tomorrow morning at 8:45, and I'm feeling heavy with dread and resentment. Last Monday was the planning session, when I had the CT scan so they could map everything out, and they put the 3 tiny tattoo dots on me. Friday was the "simulation" - I was in the actual machine, but they didn't actually radiate me, they just took films to make sure everything was set up properly. Tomorrow morning is the REAL RADIATION. The first of 33 radiation treatments.

I'm feeling bitter about the fact that during the next 6 weeks, the skin of my breast, chest, and possibly underarm is likely to become red and hot like it's sunburned, possibly itchy or painful, possibly blistered and oozy and gross, making sleeping and clothing uncomfortable. The irony is that a few weeks ago, I came very close to deciding to just have both of my breasts removed. I sent my surgeon a long, rambly email explaining that I love my body for its health, abilities, strength, and usefulness, and I'm not so focused on its appearance, thus, I would still love and appreciate my body even without breasts. I had a big long list of reasons why I'd be totally fine (emotionally!) with a bilateral mastectomy. From Day One, that has been my attitude - I don't give a damn what my breast looks like after surgery, or if it's even gone entirely, as long as I'm cancer-free and can still be on the trapeze!! I was fully prepared for at least a slightly misshapen breast after surgery.

But then... I went through a lumpectomy and TWO reexcisions, so three surgeries total, and my breast still looks AMAZING. Its shape is totally normal - I cannot tell a difference between it and the contralateral breast. Even K was amazed (and seemingly surprised!) when she saw it at my postoperative check. "Britta, I took tissue out all the way up to HERE!", she exclaimed, touching the area all the way up near my clavicle. It's rather miraculous that you'd never know by looking that my breast has had tissue removed from it 3 times! Well, except for the scar, of course... but for some reason, even the scar looks beautiful to me, it really does. Again K was amazed, also, by how quickly and how well the incision has healed after being cut into THREE times.

I don't know how to explain it, but... even though I was previously feeling unperturbed by my breast's future appearance, now that I'm done with surgery and my breast DOES look so gorgeous (to me!), I'm feeling surprisingly possessive/protective of it. The rational part of my brain has decided that I need radiation. I've researched all of my options to my satisfaction, and have come to the conclusion that radiation is slightly preferable than mastectomy, and that while I don't like EITHER choice of radiation or mastectomy, the risk I'd be taking by choosing neither option is not a risk I would be comfortable living with. So I'm choosing radiation because it is the lesser of the evils. But now that the time is upon me, I'm feeling bitter and pissed off.

I feel like, my breast has been through ENOUGH by now, goddammit. I just bought two wonderfully soft, silk tank tops to wear for the duration, because I've heard from other women who have been through radiation that many fabrics are irritating to sensitive, radiated skin. If my skin is going to get irritated like that, it probably won't happen until approximately week 3...right now everything feels so normal and good and happy; I have healed so well from surgery... and I just want to leave my poor breast(s) alone. I don't want to bare my breasts to strangers every freaking day for a month and a half so they can radiate me, I just want to leave my breasts alone in this comfy, soft, beautiful silk tank top. Just let my breasts be.


  1. if i were you, i'd be sick of having my breasts meddled with too!

    I don't know much, but i do know that dogs that get radiation do look sunburned and a little thin haired (on the area recieving radiation.)

    can you at least put aloe on it? Nothing feels better on a sunburn than putting aloe gel on it... I had to rub it into my scalp last summer after one of the NECCA shows (doh. It peeled later on too. Gross.)

  2. duh, i should have elaborated. because i was out in the sun all day because i was OUTSIDE AT THE SHOW AND I GOT A SUNBURN ON MY HEAD. duh. that was awkward!

  3. find other lovely things to do for yourself, on the level of pleasing your senses, that are similar to the tank tops you bought. treat yourself to a few things you've been wanting to include in your life but haven't up until now. because they should be included sometime, right? might as well be now! a few luxuries that you want to experience...even something as simple as a new shampoo or soap that has an amazing scent is enough for G and i on some days...aromatherapy is awesome. let all of the textures, scents, sounds around you be as beautiful as possible.
    radiation is a temporary situation. if you have skin irritation, it will heal. your skin heals very quickly, Britta! you're so lucky that way. find a few little rituals to help you through, and it will be over with before you know it! and just think about how great you'll feel then!! :D Cathryn

  4. thanks, steph... i understood before you elaborated :), and yes, i have some aloe and it's great. i'm supposed to apply it like 3 times a day, but not within the 4 hrs before radiation. it's kind of a pain, because it's not like hand lotion that you can apply no matter where you are, you know? i have to be in private 3 times a day to put aloe all over my boob, haha.

    and cathryn, thank you!! i am still loving that lilac soap you and grace gave me. :) and today i ate a big chocolate chip cookie (the fruit-juice sweetened kind we had the other night) right after having 4 vials of blood drawn, as a comforting thing.