This Life

My HER2+ Breast Cancer Journey

Recently diagnosed with breast cancer in June of 2021, I'm writing about my experiences as a cathartic release and to remember my journey.

33 Rounds of Radiation

It’s been a while since my last writing as I documented my radiation experience in short video blogs on Instagram.

Tumor area radiation boosts

There are 4 parts to my year-long treatment to overcome breast cancer and reduce my risk of recurrence. Chemotherapy, Surgery, Radiation, and Antibody infusions. The latter two are done concurrently. From February 22 to April 11th, I received 33 rounds of radiation therapy Monday through Friday every morning with breaks on the weekends. I had no idea what to expect really except that it was possible that I may feel extremely tired and that my skin may burn. Overall, the experience was well tolerated and I kept my spirits up and did my best to keep active.

Six weeks of daily treatments got to be very taxing mentally but I’m grateful that my doctor’s office was literally one block away and took me only 30 minutes on average each day. The actual treatments themselves were less than 5 minutes. Some days I was in the office literally only 15 minutes from the time I parked to the time I returned home. Other days took more time if I had to get a quality assurance scan or see the doctor for follow-ups.

The first week I did feel slightly tired, but I continued to walk and do light exercises daily. By the 4th week, I could really see the burn lines on my chest area. I had a sunburn on my chest from a trip to the Bahamas three years ago that was truly painful. This “burn” did not hurt at all except for my nipple which got slightly raw from rubbing on my T-shirts. By the second week of radiation, I began to go braless (which was quite liberating) as I constantly had to apply one of 4 different ointments to my chest area to keep it moist and prevent agitation. By the end of the 5th week, I got the nipple soreness under control and tried to keep my skin from pulling and feeling tight. By then I was almost done with radiation and just had 8 treatments left that were only concentrated on the area where the tumor was located and not the entire chest. I did feel extremely drained the last two weeks but continued to fight through it as needed and rest when I felt like it. Here is a short video of me ringing the radiation bell after my last treatment.

I was very happy to be completely done with radiotherapy, but at the same time, it left me wanting to be completely done with the entirety of my treatment and leave everything behind me. I had a long discussion with my oncologist about needing the remaining antibody infusions that will last through August and feeling angry again about everything my body and mind have been through this past year. While I find that I have been quite positive throughout it all and firmly believe that positivity helped position me with better than expected outcomes, I have been in my head a great deal lately questioning why and my life’s experiences to date. I am not afraid to admit that I sometimes feel like a stranger in my current surroundings or that I wonder where this next year will take me. People around me tell me daily how amazing, strong, and positive I am but it’s difficult to share the harsh reality that I have lived inside myself. I have experienced many losses this past year.

I have 8 more infusions left and then my port will finally be removed most likely in September. I continue to work and continue to try to find little joys daily and exercise to strengthen my body as much as possible. Each day, I come closer to the anniversary of my diagnosis. I randomly see photos of myself from last year in social media memories and look at myself in those photos in wonder when I was happy and unaware of what was to come. I know I’m supposed to be grateful because I am alive, and I truly am, but I also cannot help but feel all that I have lost. It is difficult for one to understand unless they have experienced battling their own mortality and losing that previous version of themself. It’s not easy to admit any of this in writing and put it “out” there, outside of my head, but I need to release it. Today I cry. Tomorrow I will pick myself up again and keep moving forward because that is what I am driven to do.

Visit my personal instagram if you would like to watch the highlight blogs of my 33 days of radiation. Thanks for reading.

~Angela

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