They say scent in the strongest tie to memory. What I will remember from this time is the scent of me.
I weathered radiation treatment during a hot Missouri summer. They told me I couldn't use normal deoderant because it contains aluminum, which is akin to putting aluminum foil in the microwave when undergoing radiation treatment.
This is what I smelled like:
- Burnt flesh
- Linseed oil
- Dead skin
- Sweaty polyester
- Wicking athletic bras
- Wet cotton
I finished my last radiation treatment last Friday. Since then, I've shed a layer of burnt skin, brown, almost black.
Underneath is the fuschia of regeneration.
Skin is pretty amazing stuff.
It itches. My God, it itches. I've tried not to scratch, but even the reapplication of Aquaphor after each shower has ruined at least ten tshirts and countless bras, and now with the skin so raw and new I'm not sure what I will wear to work tomorrow, when I'm sure they expect me to return anew and healed now that the treatment is over.
Except it's not really over yet. The radiation is still working inside me, and will continue to work for a few weeks, shining the flashlight over the dark room to make sure no cancer lurks in the corners before we shut the door for now. Until the next mammogram. And the next mammogram will reveal a completely new me, the me that is: after.
I will never smell aloe again and not think of this time.
But I am relieved. It is over. For the first time since April 2017, I can look at life through eyes unclouded by breast cancer. And that's a good thing.