Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Radiation Side Effects

This entry is part 32 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

Radiation treatment isn’t a free ride. It also has some side effects.

Fatigue was a big one for me. I usually spend about 12-15 hours a day awake. Yes, I sleep up to 12 hours daily; it’s just the way my bipolar works. Sometimes I can get by for a few days on anywhere between 6-9 hours, but most of the time, I go to bed and spend an hour or three wide awake before finally dropping off to sleep. Depends, as I said, on my bipolar.

With the radiation, I was getting up at ten in the morning; leaving for my two-in-the-afternoon appointment at around noon because I’m on public transit; getting home anywhere from three thirty to five depending on how long treatment (including waiting, if they were behind) took and if I needed to see my radiation oncologist, followed by the trip home; and going to bed between six and seven thirty at night. I typically got to sleep before eight, I was so weary from the combined radiation fatigue and weekday-daily trips up to the cancer hospital. I do not want to contemplate what kind of condition I’d have been in if I’d had to work as well.

With breast cancer, and I imagine pretty much every other type, they’ll tell you to get lotion and offer a list of those which work best. I didn’t get any of these lotions the first week of treatment. I have since concluded I should have stopped at the store the day of my radiation sim and picked up one of the suggested lotions. Neither did I, once I had the lotion, perform the care necessary for preventing radiation burns with it. I developed these burns beginning the third week of treatment.

They aren’t pleasant. They aren’t fun. So, when told to get lotion, I strongly encourage anyone reading this to get the lotion and make sure you use it frequently and with abandon. My radiation burns developed first on the underside of my right breast, from which skin has been . . . um, I want to say peeling, but it’s not dry. It’s gross. More burns developed early last week under my arm, and those have been driving me batty. They itch, have the same gross peeling-skin as the under-breast burn, and are kept in a constant state of raw painfulness because it’s hard to live life with my arm constantly raised (LOL).

Luckily, I started tending to my areola and nipple before the skin on it got bad. Previously, it had a brown appearance, as though it had been deliberately left to tan in the sun. Now it’s pink again, and the skin coming off it is dry and flaky. It occasionally sends spikes of stinging pain through my breast because the nipple is oversensitive and no matter what I do, there’s some level of discomfort involved in its current condition. I don’t dare go without a bra, though; that would make it worse.

I’ve been putting Neosporin on the underbreast burn consistently, and that seems to be helping. Also on the underarm burn, which also seems to be improving. I now lotion the top and sides of my breast and alternate putting lotion and Neosporin on my areola and nipple.

In addition to these side effects, my breast became quite ruddy as a result of the treatment. This, and, according to my radiation oncologist, Dr. Poppe, some tenderness is quite common and to be expected.

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1 Comment

  1. Ouch! And yuck! And hugs (very gentle ones).

    Lotion necessity duly noted.

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