Sunday, June 19, 2011

More Radiation Weirdness: Scar Boost

As I completed last Wednesday’s radiation treatment the technicians asked me if I “minded staying around a few minutes more.”

Oh, sure. Why not.

Since it was Wednesday, the day I see Dr. Ross, and I’d already planned on being there longer than normal, why not? What else could I have to do? Cancer treatment is my new job, isn’t it?

They informed me that they needed to do another simulation, of sorts, in preparation for the next phase: the Scar Boost.

They promised it would only take about 15 minutes. From what I can tell, their clock runs much slower than mine.

Considering the only other simulation I’d undergone had seemed a mild form of torture, I wasn’t jumping up and down with excitement. But knowing that I had been lying on that table and stretching my body into radiation formation for weeks now, I figured I could handle it. This would be the test to see if my flexibility and endurance had improved since that first simulation.

Plus, I didn’t have a choice. Where cancer fighting is concerned, you do what has to be done. Doesn’t pay to grumble. Although, I did wonder what they would have said if I’d replied, “No thank you.”

So, I found myself back in the simulation room with the two sweet simulation ladies, with their Sharpie markers, and fancy tape, to prep for my SCAR BOOST. Sounds pretty cool, huh?

They even called in Dr. Ross to mark on me this time. With green Sharpie, no less...something to accent the red and black marks already there.

Once the body art was finished and Dr. Ross left, they added a few finishing touches with green paint pen. Yes, paint pen…as in the kind they sell at Hobby Lobby. In prep for high tech radiation treatment I am marked with Sharpies and paint pens from the local hobby store. As an art teacher I appreciated that. 

Once marked I was then scanned and photographed so Dr. Ross could prepare whatever high tech scientific things needed to be prepared for my scar boost.

Unless you have already been there done that, you are, like I was, probably asking: "What is this so called 'scar boost' of which you speak?”

Short answer via sweet simulation ladies:
It’s where they will irradiate the scar area during the final few days of treatment.

More concise answer via Dr. Ross:
The overall breast area radiation is about to end and for the last few days of treatment only the area around the scar will be irradiated. If breast cancer is going to return for a regional recurrence (in the chest/breast area) it is most likely to return to the area around the mastectomy scar. Why? (It has nothing to do with the location of the previous tumor.) This is why: Since the scarred tissue receives less oxygen, the radiation that has already been given does not work as well there. So, the scar boost will help insure that any bad cells hanging around the scar area are damaged for good. Simple as that.

Made sense to me, and was pretty darn interesting, in my humble opinion.

I’ve read that cancer does not like oxygen, which is one (of MANY) reasons to get aerobic exercise and meditate using deep breathing everyday. Get that oxygen flowing…really flowing…throughout your body as often as possible. (Have you ever noticed how shallowly we breathe when at rest?)

Did you just take a deep breath? If not, do it now. And again...and again.

But I digress.

The simulation was nothing like the last one. My arm muscle or tendon or whatever gave me such grief the last time cooperated much better this round, plus, I didn’t have to lay there for an hour. (Although that may still come…I haven’t been worked over by the other team yet.)

As I headed to the dressing room following my visit with Dr. Ross, I was curious to see the artwork on my chest. I was not disappointed. It was just as impressive as the previous map of Arkansas, for sure. This time they’d drawn a green NASCAR track around my mastectomy scar. Awesome. I am one tatted up gal.

Note to self: Being instructed to not wash away green paint marker does not work when included with 3 mile walks, 10 mile bike rides, and hot, humid two-shower days. Oops. Tomorrow is Monday; we'll see what they say.


  1. My best wishes and prayers for you to get well soon.
    Thanks for sharing your experiences here. Keep posting.

  2. Just fell upon your blog -- and love it! I can relate to much of what you experienced. Keep us posted, and blessings to you! And yes, I too, took a deep breath while reading!

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  4. I was laughing while reading this as I share your struggle with uncomfortable arm placement etc. I also had a mastectomy and wasn’t sure why I was having the boosts. Thanks for the info, I hope you are doing well.