Waiting for Cupcakes: My Finale to Radiation for Breast Cancer

Waiting for Cupcakes: My Finale to Radiation for Breast Cancer
On New Year’s Eve, I went to an appointment for a mammogram and a New Year’s Eve party. The party was great. The mammogram, not so much: triple negative breast cancer, spread to my lymph nodes and sternum. Chemo started within the week. Five months later surgeons, removed the shrunken lump and offending nodes. Radiation was the last leg, a five minute zap daily for six weeks. In anticipation, I circled the final day of treatment on my calendar and drew fireworks inside the little box, the day I would be free. *** Compared to chemo and surgery, radiation is easy. For me, though, it was the hardest. Because of an insurance glitch, I couldn't get treatment locally and needed to stay near a hospital far from home, leaving my husband and child behind. *** It felt weird to pack for myself and not for my family. Was laundry caught up? Food in the refrigerator? Bills on fire? Departure loomed like a dry rehearsal for the Big Departure to come. In my desperation to ready the family for weeks without me, I realized I was trying to prepare them for life without me. That realization helped me understand the futility of my efforts, and ironically, brought me peace. Is it okay for Lauren to see me cry or will it scare her? Should I paste on a smile or show my fear? What will serve her best? Smiling, we hugged on the sidewalk, my warriors waving goodbye. Later, I pulled to the side and wept. *** My first day of radiation, I descended into the basement, a chamber of thick walls and cement floors. Perfectly still, I lay on a bench, red lights blinking over my bald head, surreal beams shooting invisible threads under my skin. “Hold your breath now,” a disconnected voice directed over the intercom. I stared at the ceiling, a
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