Q: Just found your blog and love it! I am currently receiving nukes at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance that you graduated from (just finished week 2, 6 more weeks to go!). Cancer is a bitch but those fine folks there make me feel so good, so good, I feel fine! However… I am starting to get a little rosy glow on my sides. My question is, how long did your “sun burn” last and has your skin recovered?

A:  Ah, the rosy glow of a holiday in Radiation Nation (formerly known as Little Chernobyl). I remember it well!

If there can be a “highlight” to cancer, radiation has been it for me (so far). I went to the Procure Proton Center in North Seattle (I don’t know if that’s the branch where you’re getting radiation) and it was so beautiful and the staff was so incredibly loving and professional and sweet that it was a pleasure to go there five days a week and get nuked to hell and back. 

About your “sun"burn. You know, I think mine lasted a little longer than a regular sunburn, then it turned into a mean tan (up my spine and on my entire scalp, neck and ears, so it was as odd as it was mean). That tan also stayed a little longer than normal for a woman with almost no melanin like moiselle. I finished treatment in late September and I would say by mid-October my color was mostly gone. 

While in treatment, however, I do recommend drinking tons of water to help your body stay hydrated while you’re burning the hell out of it. I drank 75 to 100 ounces A DAY during radiation! Not being much of a water fan, I either drank bubbly water, or I dressed tap water up with orange slices and cucumber slices, or I consumed tea that was also recommended to treat brain cancer (green or mushroom tea) or settle your stomach (licorice or ginger tea) or boost your immune system (nettle or brown rice tea). 

I also slathered my skin in Aquaphor numerous times a day when the burn became apparent. 

At the end of the whole thing, when my burn was just a tan, I went to Olympus Spa and had the ladies give me a good scrub to get rid of the peeling skin and just clean me up. 

But here’s the deal.  I assumed things would just go back to normal … but no. It’s been almost two months since I’ve graduated radiation, and my skin is still dry. I’ve gone back on my herbs (fish oil is great for dry skin) and I’m starting to hydrate more again. So if I were you, I’d keep hydrating, moisturizing and scrubbing, even when you’re obvious discoloration is gone. As I’m learning, the reparation process is long and surprising.

Oh! One other thing that might happen down the road – and this is a total freaker-outer. Some of my burned skin (and not burned skin) is now turning slate-grey. I mean, hard-core GREY! A big patch on my scalp and the skin under my missing eyebrows. Full-on was not expecting that. I’ve read it’s temporary, but be forewarned my sister in Candyland! You could go the way of a sea monster for a while before getting your land looks back!

Glub glub glub!

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