Loraine completed her final radiation treatment on June 15th. That should have been the end of the doctor visits until later this month, but that is not how things turned out. The radiation treatments burned her pretty good, second degree burns to be exact. We were not expecting this, nor were we prepared for what came next which was radio-necrosis combined with a bacterial skin infection. Radio-necrosis can occur when eradiating the cancer. Radiation therapy can cause significant harm to healthy surrounding tissue. As we have learned the hard way, this skin injury can cause considerable pain and suffering to patients who are already stressed by the diagnosis.
Before Loraine’s radiation treatments were completed, her skin began showing signs of being burned by the procedures. About a week or so before her final treatment, one of her physicians instructed her to begin using Silvadene cream on the burns to help ward off any infections. This medication is often used with other treatments to help prevent and treat wound infections in patients with serious burns. It is supposed to work by stopping the growth of bacteria that may infect an open wound. This helps to decrease the risk of the bacteria spreading to surrounding skin, or to the blood where it can cause a serious blood infection. However, while Silvadene can be used as an anti-microbial, the downside as we have since learned, is it can also delay wound healing.
Having never been through any of this, there is no way we could know the effects radiation therapy could have on an individual. We know what we were told, but as with everything else about breast cancer, there is a lot we have had to learn after the fact, and on the run. The learning curve with cancer is huge to say the least.
Loraine’s skin was burned, therefore it was warm to the touch as any burn will be. Then it began to blister which also was not unexpected given the severity of the burns. Still we were not worried until her skin began tearing and essentially ulcerating in the burned areas. This has been quite painful for Loraine and I often awaken to her moaning in pain at night when I am not on the road. The radiation treatments we believed were going to be fairly mild for side effects, but obviously this has not been the case. Sunday, while I was out on the road, Loraine called me because she was in pretty bad pain and she was draining pus and fluids from the burned area where her left breast had been. She said she was going to go to the emergency room which really scared me. In 34 years of marriage, this tough woman has never, not a single time, ever visited an emergency room for herself. Turns out, she now had a bacterial infection working on her. The emergency room doctor prescribed her an antibiotic and pain reliever and then instructed her to get in to her wound care doctor as soon as possible. Today was Wednesday, we got her in to be seen this morning. That is when we learned that the infection was a result of the radio-necrosis, and, it was aggravated by the daily application of Silvadene which she had been directed to use.
Loraine has endured enough pain with these side effects, that she has begged me to not ask her to ever go through radiation again.
I will respect her wishes when it comes to her treatments.