Part V: The Aftermath

I finished my radiation treatments last Monday. Tuesday, though, I didn’t actually know what to do with myself. For 36 days, seven weeks straight I went to get zapped at 9 am every morning- then nothing. It almost felt as though some kind of support had been yanked out from underneath me. Instead of feeling relieved, I felt lost and a bit depressed. By Wednesday I was coming around. Now I just have to wait for the side effects to go away. My skin got really dark and very painful during the radiation; then it started to peel off, and it felt better. I also get these really sharp, shooting pains in the irradiated area. I was told that any side effects might actually peak 7 to 10 days after the treatments stopped, so it might be a bit before I feel great.

The pain the radiation was giving me forced me to give up swimming for a while. I was going every Monday and Wednesday to a class, and I was really enjoying it. The water is very relaxing. The class I was attending met at the same time as the kids’ swim classes, so there were these squealing infants splashing in the water at one end of the pool while the instructor was yelling out moves to our class at the other end of the pool. There is a dome covering the pool that they put up for winter, and it really screws with the acoustics. So instead of hearing my teacher’s instructions, all I could ever hear was “Ring around the rosie, pocket full of posies, splashes, splashes, we all fall down!” followed by the giggles of babies being dunked into the water. It occurred to me that if an alien ship had landed at that place at that moment, they would have thought they hit a nest.

This week I managed to go to one of my swim classes, and now there are school-aged kids who swim at the same time. Problem with these guys is they are unpredictable. You never know if one of them is going to vomit in the pool, or do something stupid so they hurt themselves and the pool has to close down so the staff can clean up blood and other bodily fluids (it’s happened twice).

The good news is that my lymphedema has gone down now that the radiation treatments have stopped. Part of the reason I stopped swimming, aside from the pain, was that my oncologist told me that if I didn’t slow down, at least until after the radiation treatments, the lymphedema might never go away and I would be permanently disfigured. So I decided to cool it. Now I am adding activities back in, making sure I do everything possible to avoid swelling up like a balloon.

I am obsessed with the cost of my treatment. What the insurance doesn’t know is that I found the lump when I was unemployed with no insurance. I kept quiet as I desperately sought work, so I could buy insurance. To date, my insurance has been billed $68,343.36. The radiation treatments alone through April 2 total $29,062.43. I calculated, based on the average cost of treatment per day, that the insurance will be billed an additional $12,787.47 for the treatments from April 2 to April 19, my last day of treatment. That will bring my radiation total to $41,849.90 and the total cost of my cancer treatment to about $110,193.26, not including the tamoxifen I have to take for the next five years. My biggest fear is that my insurance will drop me or raise my rates so high that I can’t afford it. I open each envelope from the insurance company with dread, only to feel relief when I see that they have paid.

It is not cheap to get sick.

©2010 frayedges and


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