Last Monday, the day before I had my port removed, I completed my second to last appointment for all things cancer related. I had my meeting with the radiation oncologist, which I appreciated very much indeed. I spent some time with a resident at first, and then with the doctor herself, and both were willing to answer all my questions. The doctor in particular was convinced that radiation therapy would increase my long-term chances of remaining cancer-free. She works closely with my surgeon and my regular oncologist, and I think the three of them make a fine team, and will help numerous other people whose challenge is breast cancer.
She didn’t pull punches in trying to convince me, letting me know that possible side effects include reduced bone density in the ribs under the radiation site (which could lead to easy fractures if I, say, ever fell off a horse) and ulcerated skin at the site which might ultimately need to be healed with a skin graft. These, of course, are unlikely outcomes.
But in the game of probabilities, are these side effects any more or less likely than the possibility that some cells escaped surgery and the naturopathic remedies I was using, and are ominously at large in my body?
The doctor apologized for not having a study that really spoke to my (agreedly unusual) situation; I explained that my husband is a statistician, and I therefore know pretty well that statistics say nothing whatsoever about individual cases, so I wasn’t likely to be swayed by numbers anyway. I’m not sure if that helped or not.
The upshot was, though, that the entire two hours I felt like I was at a documentary screening or something equally unrelated to my specific life. Informative, but in a vaguely distant way. The thought of the possible side-effects didn’t make me afraid; the thought of what might happen if I didn’t do six weeks, everyday treatments didn’t make me afraid. At this stage in how I feel about my health and my life, the entire scenario simply did not apply.