Monday, August 8, 2011

Radiation Therapy: In the Rear View Mirror (Part 1)

Seven weeks ago, it seemed as though this day would never come. Yet it's true:  on Thursday I had my last radiation treatment. I've been thinking back on it a lot, and I thought it might be interesting to share some of those reflections.

'rear view' photo (c) 2006, Mel Stoutsenberger - license: first treatment was on June 23, which seems like an eternity ago.  These weeks have been challenging, but could have been much worse.  I prayed many times for endurance and grace, and the Lord was gracious enough to provide both.

The side effect of fatigue is not overstated.  At first I was tired from the routine of running back and forth to the hospital every day.  After that I was exhausted from the routine and the radiation.  Even now, I sleep late in the morning, rest in the afternoon, and fall asleep before bedtime.  I've had to give myself permission to rest, even when I know that work is waiting to be done.

My skin in the treatment area has gone through a series of color changes.  At any given time I've had areas of red (burned), brown (tanned), grayish (beyond tanned/burned), and pink (new).  The peeling layers are different from what peels after a sunburn:  these layers are thick and grayish-brown.  Right now I have blue dots where the last treatment area was marked; I guess the ink from the marker got trapped in the pores.  On the positive side, my skin is healing--though more slowly than I might like--and I no longer wake up in pain when I roll into the wrong position.

Our family and friends have helped us with meals, prayers, and encouragement.  On many afternoons when I was too exhausted to do anything except rest, I was blessed to have a hot meal delivered (or in the refrigerator, ready to heat).  And I appreciate the friends who have reminded me to take one day at a time.  When I have been overwhelmed, that advice has been a huge help.

Keeping a sense of humor has been a big help, too.  I'm glad I was able to laugh about the changing colors of my skin, about being so tired that I thought I'd fall asleep during the five minutes on the treatment table, about my parking challenges, about my car knowing its own way to the hospital.  Laughing about it made it easier to accept.

I'll post Part 2 soon ... by the end of this week, I hope.


  1. Melissa,
    Yea!!! I'm glad that final day of radiation has come and gone. You keep resting as much as you need to!
    Love you,

  2. so glad that this day has finally passed :)
    just remember, your body needs rest...
    work on YOU and the rest will still be there waiting when you are ready to tackle it

  3. I have been thinking about you, glad you reached this milestone, hope all the others are like sunshine, easy fresh and renewing!

  4. So glad that this part is over for you. Rest as much as you need. Our bodies heal when we sleep. Take care.

  5. When you are not going through it other peoples trials seem to go so quickly - I am amazed that you are done but I bet for you it was a long process even though it sounds as if God did allow it to go relatively smoothly.


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