A Red, Hot Breast: Radiation Damage Already?

by Maggan

in Radiation,Radiation Oncology


Every day now the same routine: leave work for the hospital. Park curbside by the entrance and walk through the sliding glass doors into the main lobby. Take the elevator one floor down into the basement, turn a corner and – voila – radiation oncology. Change into the insane asylum robe, wait a few minutes before being called to lie down on the plastic foam bag and get zapped. You cannot feel a thing. You can only hear a hum from the equipment.

After a week of radiation, my right breast is red, feels warm, and a bit tender. Despite all careful instructions: don’t wash with harsh soaps, use aloe creams, don’t wear a bra. Don’t expose to sun light. Not now. Not for the next two years.

-Look at my breast. Is this radiation damage? I ask the two techs who attend me at each session. They are G., short and stout and severely menopausal. Fans her sweat attacks away with my folder. (At one session I cannot resist giving G. a card that reads: those who say “no sweat” have never been through menopause. ) The other tech is J., also short and fairly heavy set. She has a luminous black complexion, is cheerful, and has a great smile. She is making plans to take her 10-year old daughter to Paris on her next vacation.

They both glance at my red breast and laugh at my wild imagination.

-Honey, you will not be able to notice anything for at least three weeks, if that. It is way too early.

But my breast only seems to be getting redder, and feels hotter each day. I compare my left breast with my right by feeling them with the back of my hand and looking in the mirror. Yes, my radiated breast is much warmer than my left breast. I call Dr. Alpha, who I normally see only once a week.

-Your techs think I am a hypochondriac, but my radiated breast is red and hot although I am told it will not happen for weeks.

The next day, Dr. Alpha examines me, the same way I examined myself: By feeling the two breast with the back of his hand and comparing the color of each breast. He nods in approval.

-You are right. Again! says Dr. Alpha. Good thing you noticed too. You have an infection. It is not unusual after two surgeries. But it would have been difficult to detect later as your treatments proceed. I will give you an anti-biotic. He scribbles on his pad.

-Wow, Cipro, the athlete’s drug. Thanks. Do you have special instructions? Taken with meals? With a bottle of wine?

-Half of bottle of wine. Dr. Alpha chuckles.

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