Don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor
Doctors were confident that they removed enough that there was a minimal chance of microscopic cancer cells being left behind. The next step for Alicia Fjerstad was daily radiation and a chemo pill for five weeks.
“I would lay on the table and hold my breath for a series of four scans while they hit me with a laser beam of radiation, and then I’d be out the door” Fjerstad said. “The funny thing is with radiation in itself, it took me longer to get dressed and undressed than it did to get hit with radiation.”
While she was anticipating radiation to be a horrendous experience, it ended up being easier than she imagined.
“They’re basically burning you from the inside out and so I was expecting the worst,” Fjerstad said. “I was prepared for constant pain and suffering and blistering and sunburn effects. I actually made it all five weeks, or 25 treatments until the second to last treatment that we started to notice the pink starting to come in. My radiation oncologist was blown away. “
She was receiving the highest possible dose of radiation, plus a chemo pill to heighten the effects of radiation and a bolus to keep the radiation at the skin. This made the lack of redness at the radiation site even more shocking. But once it did start to irritate her skin, Fjerstad was in for a rough few weeks.
“For the next three to four weeks, I was a mess,” Fjerstad said. “I was sore, I was blistering, I was peeling, I was sensitive. It hurt to wear anything. The only thing that helped was aquaphor and a special medicated gauze. I just kept putting it on and taking it off. I ruined so many shirts because of it.”
After what she called a whirlwind year of treatments, Fjerstad is now in complete remission. Fjerstad is thankful for the people in her life who helped her through treatment.
“It was just prayers and prayers and prayers on top of that,” Fjerstad said. “And the weird thing was that I felt them. I felt them all the time. I never went into the clinic nervous. I always felt a sense of calming when I was there.”
She also feels lucky to live as close to the Mayo Clinic as she does. The staff at the clinic and her oncologist, who she called a breath of fresh air, always made sure that she was receiving the best care possible.
“They made sure that I knew all the possible outcomes and they handled everything amazingly,” Fjerstad said.” If I ever had to suggest anyone, it would be the Mayo Clinic, hands down.”
And after going through this experience, Fjerstad cannot emphasize the importance of talking to doctors about any concerns enough.
“I relied on Google to be my doctor, and that is not something that anybody should do,” Fjerstad said.
She mentioned that a breast exam takes two minutes in the shower. She also mentioned that men can get breast cancer as well. Fjerstad believes that everyone should take the time to check themselves, regardless of age or gender. And if something is discovered in a self-examination, go to a doctor.
“You’re your own advocate,” Fjerstad said. “No one else can touch or feel or know unless you do it. Just don’t question anything. Go in and look. You’re not a bother to your doctor. And if you think you are, you need to talk to me.”