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Monday, June 25, 2007

The reason there is a Ninja Librarian

I have written before on my need to cover up my head from the sun during and after radiation therapy on this blog, but I thought I would tell more about why I still need to hide from old Sol. Most information sources explaining the radiation side effects - short and long term - list avoiding sun exposure to the treated area as a smart thing to do:
Radiation Therapy (KidsHealth)

Avoiding sun exposure to the treated area can be long term


Having had radiation treatment actually raises my chances of getting non-melanoma skin cancer in that site, so I am motivated to cover up.

Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer

But even if I didn't have all of these motivations, remaining pain-free is a biggie for me. Remember the last sunburn you had? Remember how it felt if you went back out into the sun the next day without covering up? The sun made the burn hurt more. That is what I feel whenever I walk in front of a window with direct sun coming in, or go outside without something covering my face - literally like a slap in the face if it is bright sun. Strangely, halogen lights also get me to burning, so I actually carry my hat into jewelry stores or boutiques, just in case (oh yeah, that is just what the manager wants to see - someone covering their face in a jewelry store!). One other reason to keep out of the sun - if my skin gets irritated, including by heat, it increases the lymphadema, and I swell up on that side. Since my skin is screwed up, (but it looks great - I think I found the cure for acne), I don't put anything on my face except Cetaphil cream, leaving the sunblocks off the list of facial applications. I count on the fabric of my Coolibar hat with its 98% UV blocking to counter the sun's effects. The fabric is soft enough to not irritate my skin, too. For folks that had radiation on other parts of their body, they should consider ways to keep the affected area out of the sun - remembering that our street clothes don't do such a great job at blocking UV.

Finding ways to live while staying out of the sun can be a challenge. Oncologists may not tell you how to cope with living while you remain sun-free. My crew told me to stay out of the sun - that was it (and as I said, avoiding extreme pain already made me pay attention to this directive). I wanted to remain independent, driving and conducting business in daylight, so I searched until I found a solution to block the sun - first the visor that I wore last winter with my scarf wrapped around my neck, and now my Coolibar hat (I also bought a jacket to protect the rest of me). That is when the Ninja Librarian was born. Other folks handle the challenge in more artistic ways. I had the honor this fall of meeting Ted Kooser, former United States Poet Laureate, who is a fellow head/neck cancer survivor. When he was going through radiation treatment and recovery, he walked in the early morning hours to keep his strength up. The poems that resulted from these early morning walks were later published in his book: Winter Morning Walks: 100 Postcards to Jim Harrison. By the way, Mr. Kooser told me a very important thing - while he was going through the treatment, he never knew there was a Poet Laureate honor in his future. Anything can happen after cancer - anything.


Jeanne said...

Thanks, Teri--I don't remember any of my doctors ever telling me to stay out of the sun after radiation therapy, except maybe when I had my chest radiated after a local occurrence of my breast cancer and the skin was raw and broken down. But not the other times I had radiation. And I sure don't remember anyone saying it would be a good idea to protect those areas from the sun for years to come.

Also, I know that you are supposed to avoid the sun while on some chemotherapies, but I need to check and see which ones.



Dr. Lisa said...

ONly my friendly sarcoma doc, (ie. my personal friend who happens to be a sarcomologist) told me to completely stay ou tof hte sun, but like you the pain in my ankle guided me. I am a complete servant to sun protection now as I live in LA. thanks for hte good info.

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