Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Have a Schmear

If you're from the East Coast (New York, specifically), you know what a schmear is. As in, "I'll have a bagel and a schmear." In that context, the schmear is cream cheese. In the context I'm using it, it means to slather yourself with some sort of moisturizing cream after roasting - er, radiation.

I'm nearing the end of my second week of roasting, and the only way I can describe the experience is tedious. The treatment itself is very quick and I don't feel anything, other than the discomfort in my arms from having to hold them above my head.

Roasting is a very different experience from poisoning - sorry, chemotherapy. It's a very solitary endeavor because the treatment consists of lying on your back while two or three radiation technicians position your body so very specific areas can be targeted. In my case, the areas being treated are the left side of my chest, where my breast used to be, and under my arm, where the cancer spread to my lymph nodes. The device, or machine, looks like this:

And yes, that entire huge section hovers over you and is positioned by remote control. Pretty freaky, huh?

Really, there's not much to it. At least not yet. As I mentioned in my previous post, the waiting room chatter can get rather gossipy when the conversation turns to side effects. The women I encountered, who were also being treated for breast cancer, complained of burns so severe that they had to stop treatment for a few weeks to allow their skin to heal. The men were silent. I'm guessing that if they were receiving treatment for prostate cancer, talking about roasting their groin area isn't a pleasant topic. Women generally tend to venture far into TMI territory; think about it - we have so much more to contend with - and we like to share. Two of the women shocked me when they said chemotherapy was a "cakewalk" compared to radiation. Maybe they didn't have the good stuff to schmear all over themselves. I'm using Josie Maran Unscented Argan Oil Body Butter, pictured above.

I am a fair-skinned Jewish girl. In my younger days, my hair was light blonde, and my skin pale and prone to sunburn. I spent many sunny summer days sizzling on the beach at Jacob Riis Park in Queens with my Italian next-door neighbors, who used to marinate their olive skin in baby oil. In those days, I was partial to Coppertone SPF 4, or Ban de Soleil orange jelly, which I'm pretty sure didn't provide any sun protection, but smelled amazing. Then, there were all those day-camp trips to Jones Beach; after that was the time I fell asleep on the beach at Kingsborough Community College (yes, one of my alma maters actually has a beach), and burned my face so badly that my eyes were swollen almost shut for over a week.

I think the hole in the ozone was much smaller back then, because now I won't leave the house without at least SPF 15 on my face, despite the fact that I live in a place where it rains a lot. Happily, I don't have much in the way of wrinkles or sun damage, which is miraculous, because at this point, if I had continued that kind of roasting, I'd look like lizard Birkin bag. And by the way, I've never ever been to a tanning salon. Hell, I don't even self-tan or use bronzer, although I'm thinking about starting.

For now, it's me, my crackerjack radiation techs, and my "tub of love", as Josie Maran likes to call her argan oil body butter. If it saves my skin from melting off my body, I promise to buy a case of it.


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