Monday, February 6, 2012

What Does Radiation Look Like?

In early January, when I was done with chemo I started thinking about radiation which meant I started doing some research. All along I have approached this from a "one step at a time" framework. I was not going to worry about radiation until I had finished chemo, so it wasn't on my mind until early this year. When I started my radiation research I couldn't find any pictures of what to expect, other than a few that were HORRIFIC. I'm sure these were "worst case scenarios" but they were scary. Do you know 1 in 9 women will get breast cancer in their lifetime? How can there not be any pictures of this? I'm sure it has to do with the boobs.

People, I've made a decision. I'm going to put my semi-naked self on the internet. OH MY GAWD!!!! What has possessed me! Well, for one thing, I want other people to be able to look at these in the future and know that this is what it might look like and that it doesn't look as terrible as some of the photos I was able to find. Also, some of you have asked to see what it looks like.

Chances are, I'm not the only person you will know who will get this disease. Think of this as an encyclopedia. You can refer people here. Don't worry about the pics being too racy, I'm pretty sure these pictures would still be classified as PG-13. I mean, my parents have already seen them! I've only put in the jump so people have the option to not look at my upper torso if they don't want to.

So, if you want to see the goods, click below. And by below, I mean those two blue words: "Read more"

Okay, so here goes:

This is what a radiation burn looks like. This is after 19 (or so) treatments. Maybe less. It was a few days ago and I've been debating whether or not to put them up since. Including today, I have 12 to go. As you can see, the field is quite large. Much larger than I was expecting. It is also impressive to see the precision with which radiation appears to be delivered - that is quite the "tan" line. In this photo you can also see the scar from Ethel's departure (just off my thumb) and the scar from the drain (at the end of my middle finger). You can also see that I'm still bald, but it's coming along.

This one is a little grosser. It's the close up version. Please ignore any armpit hairs; the internet says I shouldn't shave during treatment.

I guess I haven't entirely abandoned modesty as I'm still covering up a bit, but if you would have told me I'd be posting this stuff on the internet even a year ago, I'd have called you a liar. And insane. My how the times have changed.

*Also, in totally unrelated news, I've been hearing that people have been having trouble commenting. I'd heard this before and tried to make modifications but it seems what I did has not worked. Or not worked universally. I'll keep working on it but you can always email me at: laura dot m one at gmail dot com.


  1. I must commend you on your bravery. You are an inspiration to all women.
    I worked with your Aunt Colleen and have been following your blog. One of my own sisters is currently going through her own breast cancer treatment. My sister did the every 3 weeks chemo and is now going through weekly. Once that is done, she will get a short rest and start radiation. I have tried to talk her into logging onto to your blog but she has chosen not too. I so wish she would as you are a true inspiration.

  2. Brave!!! Well, not too brave as you look great! You look to be in phenomenal shape, and I was barely looking at your radiation burn... which looks bad, but not TOO bad. I can only imagine the crazy photos you found whilst looking for examples. The burn kind of looks like what I would get when welding/torch cutting without adequately covering exposed skin. Not in the same locations of course; topless welding is frowned upon. It was mostly my neck/collarbone. That was voluntary carelessness though, you however are being a responsible person by making thought out decisions pertaining to your health.
    Can't wait to see you guys in May!

  3. Laura,

    Every time I read this blog I am more impressed with how confident, strong and optimistic you have been through this. You are the best. You can redeem this comment for one big hug in June.

    Adam :)

  4. I have always been absolutely terrified of getting cancer, that somehow if I ever got diagnosed (even if was more "minor" cancer) that it would be an automatic end to work, or laughter, or hanging out. Reading your blog, seeing you still going to work, going out a bit, playing games, still LIVING. Thank you. I mean it. And bravo on putting up pictures. It really takes some of the fear out of it. You're amazing. Mandy Nelson

  5. Nice jugs, you little exhibitionist, you...

  6. As always you make your old man proud. Keep up the good work. Love Crank.

  7. Can I tell you something honestly, and I swear I am not just saying this to be nice... But you look really great bald! For realz! I don't know if it's the glasses and the big beautiful Laura smile, but you look good.

    Ohh, how I wish I could wrap my little arms around you and give you a big HUG AND A KISS for your bravery. I know how vain you *say* you are (I've seen worse...), but if you can try and pull at least one positive note from this experience (which you seem to do all the time even though what you are going through is really terrible...) you have become to open and honest and true.

    Hopefully after bitchy Ethel and her unpleasant after bits are gone you are able to be more open and free with your body and less worried about how you look, and really EMBRACE being that beautiful girl you are <3

  8. So, I found your picture here for the very same reason you left it... in the hope of finding out what I might look like in a few weeks! I'm 33, and since July have had a mastectomy, egg harvesting, chemo, lymph node clearance and am only now, seven and a half months on, looking into radiotherapy just a few days before it starts!!! Thank you so much for posting, you look great and are doing well putting on a 'brave face'. I too took a 'mid treatment' trip to Canada (Whistler) to visit old friends and prove that it was possible to get on a snowboard and kick ass even while I was at my weakest. It's a shitty thing to have to deal with a our 'young' ages but at least we have the rest of our lives to get our heads around it! Oh, and on the subject of nude and rude pictures on the internet... go for it!! I often smile to myself at the thought of someone stealing my iphone and how they would get the fright of their life if they scrolled through my photos (which are a fully comprehensive diary of the past year)... scars and all!

  9. I'm crying my eyes out. And scared. Was it a hard decision for you to go through with the treatment. I seriously have thought, not knowing, a person could just have their boobs removed and it would be over. I'm very misinformed ain't I? I'm waiting on results now to know whether its malignant or not. So very glad I ran into your site. God bless you in your fight.

    1. No, for me the decision was easy. From the moment I was diagnosed I knew I would take the most agressive treatment possible. In my case, because I'm so young, chemo is pretty standard. I could have opted for a mastectomy and not had any radiation but the research suggests that the survival outcomes are about the same (mastectomy vs lumpectomy & radiation). There are pros and cons for each but to me, the surgery for a mastectomy seemed more invasive and, for my kind of cancer, unnecessary. I'm a year out from radiation and I still have some side effects but nothing major.

      Hopefully you will not need to make any of these decisions and your lump is benign. I will say that even getting the news that it was cancer was better than living in limbo. I remember how terrible waiting for results was. I hope your days pass quickly and, at the end of the tunnel, you get good news.

      Good luck!

  10. Thank you for sharing your story and photos. Just finished my rads for Stage 1 invasive breast cancer. It's very red and blistery, bumpy, itches a lot. But beats the heck out of worrying about a higher rate of recurrence. Thanks!

    1. Agreed! I'm almost five years out and I still have a "tan line" but the skin has otherwise recovered well. The breast tissue is different, and more tender, but all in all, mostly back to normal. Hope it is all smooth sailing for you from here on out