FOX 5’s Ayesha Khan celebrates end of radiation
Bethesda, MD. (FOX 5 DC) - FOX 5 reporter Ayesha Khan has been sharing her experience with stage 3 breast cancer since February.
She had a mastectomy in October, underwent chemotherapy for 5 months, and this week, she completed her daily radiation.
Radiation, although a much "kinder" treatment than chemotherapy, hasn’t exactly been easy.
It was something I was going into the Aquilino Cancer Center for every day, Monday through Friday.
I swore I wasn’t going to cry the way I did when I rang the bell for the end of chemo back in April, but I couldn’t help it.
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My radiation therapists, along with my doctor, mom and brother watched and clapped cheering for me on yet another momentous occasion.
This time, I even got a certificate of completion signed by the entire staff.
The treatment didn’t keep me in the chair for hours the way 5 months of chemo did, every week.
Each afternoon, I would lie back on a sliding bed with the area of where I had my mastectomy completely exposed from the waist up facing toward humongous X-ray machines.
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My radiation oncologist Dr. Marie Gurka, with Adventist HealthCare, explained how high-powered beams of intense energy would move around my body to precisely aim and kill any remaining cancer cells.
The whole process of checking in, gowning up, being set up on the sliding table would take about half hour, but it was just less than ten minutes for the actual portion of the treatment.
"The specific type of radiation that you received is something called intensity modulated radiation therapy that can really shape those X-rays around the target and treat what we want to treat and avoid the normal tissues like the lung and the heart if it’s nearby," Dr. Gurka explained.
Since I was getting radiation on a daily basis, I certainly felt the fatigue that came along with it.
That meant, I had to take a nap after each session.
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"Your body and the area we are treating is trying to repair after each treatment, so that does take energy from you," Dr. Gurka said.
I also started noticing intense redness, irritation, flaking and darkening of the skin that was being treated.
Given that it is summer, I have to be very careful about being in the sun, hot tubs, or pools to avoid exasperating the radiated skin even more.
I also had a hard time swallowing food and liquids during the treatments.
"We outlined the areas that we need to treat and one of those areas is the lymph nodes just above the collarbone at the base of the neck," Gurka said. "Then, the esophagus that sits next to the area, so that lymph node area gets that dose and that’s enough to irritate the inside of it."
It’s going to take about 3 weeks or so for me to recover from radiation and for my body to feel somewhat normal again.
For now, I’m just soaking in the celebration that each milestone of a completed treatment brings.
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I have yet to do a scan to see how the treatments worked. I also just started a 10-year regimen of hormone suppression therapy, which means the twice-a-day medication known as Verzenio will help keep the cancer away.
Before the end of this year, I will be having reconstruction surgery to remove an expander in my right breast and replace it with an implant.