Radiation Is My Reality

The devastation this past week in Japan is heart-breaking. The loss of life, homes, businesses and its effect on the economy will be felt for a long time. And then there is radiation – the threat of a nuclear meltdown. Our greatest fear is my reality. In these past 10 years of living with cancer I have received more radiation to my body than I could’ve ever imagined. Six weeks of radiation to my breast. Six weeks of radiation to my bones. For 10 years, every four months, a bone scan; and every six months, a PET scan.

And get this... every time I have a PET Scan I have to sign a piece of paper that says you acknowledge the fact that you cannot be in contact with anyone under the age of 15 for 24 hours. I imagine myself in a horror movie as a zombie wandering around and glowing in the dark. It’s funny when I think of all those years of dental visits where I insisted I did not need more X-rays. I had to protect myself from radiation. What a joke. I’ve probably had enough radiation to destroy a city. And what do the doctors say? If you don’t do the scans we can’t see the cancer, and if we can’t see the cancer, we can’t manage the cancer. Such is the life of a patient living with Stage 4 cancer.

This past Monday I started round two of my chemo. Eight more weeks, then another scan. Because of the horrible side effects I had on my hands and bottoms of my feet, the doctor cut the dose from three pills twice a day to two pills twice a day. My hands are less red and the blisters have gone, but they feel like leather, and the tips of my fingers have weird calluses. It’s not pretty. I’m going to have to start wearing gloves everywhere like Diane Keaton used to – although I don’t think I’ll look as funky and cool as she did. I’ll just stick out like an odd ball. Maybe I can bring back the 1950s look… June Cleaver perhaps. Gloves worked with her outfits, right?

I am seeing my doctor this week for blood and two huge shots of an estrogen blocker. My dad is in town from Cleveland, so that will make it seem more fun. He always wants to see Dr. Glaspy when he visits. He idolizes this man. Why not, he’s keeping his favorite daughter alive. (You can be sure I’ll be getting calls tomorrow from all five of my sisters).

Noreen Fraser is living with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. She is co-founder of STAND UP TO CANCER and co-produced the TV show, which raised 100 million dollars for cancer research. Noreen went on to create the Noreen Fraser Foundation to raise money and awareness for women's cancer research. The 'Men for Women Now' program enlists men to ask the women they love to make appointments for their mammogram and pap smear. Noreen can be reached at noreen@noreenfraserfoundation.org.