Radiation milestone: Saying goodbye to the breastboard!

I’m struggling with how to start off this post. This past week+ represented a few different milestones. To use the word “exciting” doesn’t seem quite right, but it’s as close as I can get right now. Perhaps with more introspection, I will come up with a better word later on. But for right now, this past week+ was pretty exciting.

So what happened? I passed the halfway mark in my treatment, attended my first breast cancer support group, and then passed the two-thirds mark in my treatment when I hit #20 on Thursday. Twenty weekdays. Four weeks out of the six are done.

I am both happy and scared about the impending end to treatment. Breast cancer has been my life for the past 5 months. I can’t see past treatment #30 of 30 to figure out what survivorship looks like yet. There are a few more things to get through before I can think about my long-term survival.

Breastboard (or breast board) used for breast cancer radiationThis Monday (treatment #22) brings yet another milestone in my radiation treatment. I will have my final turn on the breastboard. Do you see the contraption to the left? That is a breastboard, ladies and gentlemen. Every weekday since I started treatment, I whip off my hospital gown, park my bum in what they call the “bottom stop” (that tiny shelf at the bottom), rest my arms overhead in those open cuffs and my head in the headrest, and try to relax as the techs get me into place for treatment.

On Monday, I get to say goodbye to this damn thing as the final phase of my treatment (starting the next day with treatment #23) will target my tumor bed and not the entire breast. This “boost” is used to make absolutely sure there are no rogue cancer cells still hiding in or around my scar tissue. It requires a completely different setup than whole breast radiation.

The breastboard plays a big part in the mental marathon of radiation. Lying there in an open room with no shirt on and arms overhead with at least two techs staring at your chest is a very vulnerable position to be in day after day. Never in my life have a felt this exposed for such a long period of time. They prod and position and measure. They look and look again to make sure my radiation tattoos – blue dots on my skin – line up with the laser system in the room.

Thankfully, the radiation team at my hospital are seasoned professionals. Even the one male on my team hasn’t looked twice at my surgical scars or my scar tissue or my reddening skin. Instead, they ask about my weekend and remember to ask about things that I told them about in the past. I am a half-naked breast cancer patient lying on a table that looks like a modern-day torture device, but they still treat me like a human being.  For this, I am thankful. But I still can’t wait to say goodbye to the breastboard.

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3 thoughts on “Radiation milestone: Saying goodbye to the breastboard!

  1. linda , I just had my 16th out of 35 treatments today on a Sunday to make up for thanksgiving , I am now starting to get sore and red ,but how I found your site was I was looking up why I am so dark under my eyes ,I look really sick ,my doc never told me this would happen I have been so worried ,I had stage 0 ductal carsinoma ,had a lumpectomy and now treatment and I ask myself everyday if I did the right thing by keeping my breast . I will then go on tamoxifen , I am really scared of that so many side effects ,thanks for writing your blog it helped me a lot to know its the treatment making feel this way , Debbie

    1. Debbie,
      I just had my 27th out of 30 treatments on Sunday to make up for Thanksgiving as well. I am so sorry that you are getting the dark circles under your eyes, too. I think it’s the fatigue. I don’t know about you, but I can never get enough sleep to make up for the tiredness.

      As for keeping your breast, I kept mine. I felt very strongly about it. I will fight to keep my body intact unless I am told there is no other option. But that is me and my feelings. There is no right answer. Mastectomies are no walk in the park either. The recovery is pretty tough to go through.

      Keep the faith. You are halfway through treatment. Stop reading about the scary side effects of Tamoxifen. I did the same thing and my nurse said that she sees a range of side effects, including women who have no side effects at all!

      Hang on. You are not alone. You will get through this and your life will continue.

      All my best,
      Linda

  2. Linda, your posts are truly inspiring. Celebrate each milestone! It’s good to be a member of the survivors club

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