Radio Days And The Boob Bubble

young breast cancer radiation therapy

Outside. Directly opposite. Big Ben has chimed a big fat 9 am.

St Thomas’s radiotherapy unit. This is my home away from home for the next 23 consecutive days – excluding weekends – cancer doesn’t do weekends – thus resulting in my appointments being drawn out and clashing with my beloved Glastonbury Festival. Nooooooooo. To go during radiotherapy or not to go? That is the question.

I look around me at a sea of white hair. Bloody hell. Everyone’s so old. I don’t want to get that old. So old some of these patients look like they’ve been wheeled in from the set of Dr Who. Fossilised and mute. Why are you here?! What’s the point of prolonging your life?! What quality of life are you going to actually have? Yeh the heart’s still beating but everything else is buggered. I’d just like to reach 50 please universe. No more, no less if that’s not too much to ask. As I contemplate this, I notice an elderly patient smiles at me…. and doesn’t stop smiling at me.

Bridget is 80. She’s a sweetheart and there to have her pelvis done. She tells me her ENTIRE medical history, then lowers her voice to almost mouth the words…

“Once my radiotherapy finishes I have to stick several medical objects up my…….!!!!”

Get. Me. Out. Of. Here.

Her eyes light up, “I’ve never used a vibrator before.”


Say something Lara!

“Well….. better late than never.”

Bridget gets called to her appointment.


It’s been two months since I finished chemo. Three weeks after chemo I had a re-excision – usually it’s meant to be 4 weeks but my surgeon fast tracked me so I had a chance of making it to Glasto. Priorities man. I love my surgeon. A re-excision is basically more surgery to remove a bit of skin in my boob that was touching the tumour. This is called the ‘margins.’ Imagine my tumour is a fried egg sunny side up. Which is appropriate really, seeing as my tits look like a couple of fried eggs. The tumour is the yellow yolk and the margins are the egg white. Everything has to be removed. The surgery is done using the naked eye. My dear surgeon thought he’d removed the whole fried egg in my first round of surgery (I had a lumpectomy.) But the pathologist (who’s job is to cut and examine the juicy lump of tumour tissue) found he’d only removed three quarters of the margins. So he went back in there and cut the last bit of the quarter out. The results came back clear. No traces of cancer. Boom.

Three weeks after the re-excision I go in for my radiotherapy pre-assessment. I lie on the measuring table. The nurses tattoo 3 tiny dots (the closest I’ll ever get to being cool.) One in the centre of my chest and the other two either side of my boobs. This is so the measurements are completely precise. Radiation is hardcore. It’s so strong that not only will it kill any cancer cells, it also kills the healthy cells and can potentially damage my ribcage and my lung as it zaps the shit out of where my tumour was and the area directly around it. It kind of reminds me of a microwave nuking my insides. This is why the radiotherapists don’t want to damage any more of me than is necessary, hence the exact tattooed measurements.

“Have you had an implant?” asks the nurse.

I snort.

“Do you think my boobs would be this small if I had implants?!”

The nurse titters “Yes you have a point” and carries on the examination. A confused look comes over her face.

“Mmmm there seems to be something in there. But don’t be alarmed.”

(Riiiiiight.) I smile. Nervously.

She proceeds with my CT scan.

“OK Lara. Just looking at your scan, it appears you have an air bubble stuck in your breast.”


“Is that normal?”

“I’ve never seen it before. It must have got trapped in there after surgery. I think it’s best you get it seen to before you start radiotherapy as it could effect things.”

I get dressed and have a good feel.

Yep, there’s a large air bubble in my boob. Not dissimilar to a giant freaking piece of bubble wrap.

I book an appointment with my surgeon. My breast care nurse comes along for moral support. The three of us sit there. And giggle. Neither of them had heard of anything like this before. After sticking a syringe in it (I didn’t deflate like a balloon whizzing round the room sadly) the doc shows me what he’s drawn out. A tiny bit of red goo. Barrrfffff. But the bubble’s still there.

An ultrasound later (that doc had never seen anything like it either) I carried on my merry way with the advice “it should eventually absorb back into your body.” And sure enough, a week later, it did. Bubble tit drama over.

So, back to the radiotherapy unit. I’m lying dead still. All Saints ‘Never Ever’ is playing. Never ever as a 14 year old listening to that song did I imagine myself lying here half naked looking like Sigourney Weaver in Alien about to have my tit nuked.

Brrrrrrrrr it’s always so cold in here. They crank the air con up to keep the equipment cool. My nipples are like pistols. I almost expect the radiotherapist to halt dead and stick her hands up on entering and seeing them!

The lovely radiotherapists walk in.

“Ooo it’s cold in here,” one of them says.

“Hang on a minute. I’m half naked. At least you’re all wearing clothes! My nipples are like bottle openers!”

They all chuckle. I am quite funny.

“Ok Lara, see you in a moment.”

The radiotherapists dash out of the room – they can’t be anywhere near the machine when it’s in action. I mean who wants to be near a machine that transmits radiation and can potentially cause cancer?


As I lie there on my back, arms stretched up over my head, nipples you could hang a coat on, I think about how at ease I’ve become with being naked in front of all the nurses and Doctors. At least this is a flattering position. It’s certainly the most pert they’re ever gonna look.

The 23 days are a jumble. It takes more than cancer to stop me from going to Glasters. Friday morning straight after rads I set off with my wellies and sequins. It was the best weekend ever, spent laughing and dancing with my wonderful friends who surrounded me with LOVE. I’ve never done Glasto sober before. Who needs alcohol and narcotics when you can have vegan sushi and a gong bath?!

On Monday, full of happiness and my yearly Glasto rebirth of life (I promise you, no narcotics) I drove straight from Worthy farm to the hospital, covered in glitter and grinning from ear to ear in time for my LAST radiotherapy session.

The perfect way to end active treatment.

This post originally appeared here.

Herbs To Help The Body Heal: Part 1


In my life and herbal medicine practiceI have come to view health challenges as opportunities to connect more deeply with nature– particularly plants that offer support and nourishment for body and spirit. This is the first article in a series of three, exploring some plants that nature offers those of us living with and recovering from cancer.

Fu Zheng Pei Ben

There are herbs to support all phases of an individual’s experience with cancer—including mid-treatment. In my herbal medicine practice, I often ask myself, “How can I support and nourish this individual without interfering with existing medications or therapies?”

China’s medical system offers an excellent model for supporting those receiving cancer treatments. As in the US, many forms of cancer are treated with radiation and chemotherapy. In China, it is considered good practice to curb side effects and nourish the body while administering such strong treatment. Out of this belief came a therapy approach called fu zheng pei ben, which translates to ‘support the normal qi and strengthen resistance.’

Fu zheng pei ben uses many adaptogen herbs. Adaptogens are a category of herbs that enhance the body’s response to physical, mental, and emotional stressors. Most are supportive of a range of body systems, including the cardiovascular, endocrine, and digestive systems. Adaptogens are considered non-toxic, stamina-boosting, and safe for long-term use. Each contains constituents shown to be chemoprotective and radioprotective, antioxidant, and immune-boosting. Adaptogens are used to mitigate side-effects of cancer treatments, including nausea, fatigue, low red blood cell count, immune suppression, and decreased white blood cell count.

Below are three of my favorite fu-zheng herbs, plus two herbs from India that fill a similar niche. Their gentleness also makes them appropriate during mildly stressful times of life—anytime, really. They are most effective when taken daily over a longer period of time (4-6 months, or much longer).

  • Astragalus root has been used for thousands of years in Chinese medicine. Studies demonstrate its ability to increase low red blood cell formation, increase white blood cell count, and stimulate a range of immune functions. It is frequently used in combination with medications to reduce side effects and toxicity.
Most adaptogens are nourishing roots of medicinal plants
Most adaptogens are nourishing roots of medicinal plants.
  • In a clinical study, eleuthero root was shown to reverse bone marrow suppression and leukopenia—common conditions among patients receiving radiation and chemotherapy. Eleuthero is liver-protective, immune-boosting, and may improve digestion and nutrient absorption.
  • Studies demonstrate Reishi mushroom’s ability to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. This herb is also used to support the “shen”—one’s emotional and mental balance. Anxiety, insomnia, and mild depression may all be supported by Reishi.
  • Ashwagandha root is used to mitigate the depletion of white blood cells that can occur during cancer treatments. Like Reishi, it is often used for its calming effects on the nervous system. Ashwagandha is also rich in iron, and may be helpful for those with iron-deficient anemia.
  • Holy Basil (Tulsi): Drinking a delicious tea like Tulsi can be as uplifting as the properties it contains. Fragrant holy basil is revered and heavily-used in India. A holy basil alcohol extract was shown to have a “significant antistress” effect in mice. It may help protect against damage induced by chemotherapy and radiation. It has a reputation for improving digestion and mental clarity.

Due to their food-like nature, adaptogens can be fun to “take”! This adaptoballs recipe has a nut butter and honey base. It can be tweaked to include whichever herb powders you, your doctor, and an herbalist agree work best for you. Be sure to store powders in the freezer to maintain their potency. Adaptogens are frequently taken as tinctures (alcohol extracts) as well. A local herbalist may offer a much lower cost than store bought tinctures.

Talk with your doctor before adding adaptogens to your treatment plan. Keep in mind that most US medical schools no longer require herbal medicine training. Be prepared to present studies and articles about your herb(s) of choice to your doctor. An herbalist should be consulted in choosing the best herbs for you.


1.) Hoffman, David. Medical Herbalism, Rochester: 2003. pp. 532, 545.

2.) Ming Li, Pan. “Cancer Treatment with Fu Zheng Pei Ben Principle.” Fujian Science and Technology Press, 1992.

3.) Winston, David and Stven Maimes. Adaptogens. Rochester: 2007. pp. 95-98, 140, 159, 169.


Please remember this post is the opinion of the author and should not be replaced for actual medical advice or attention.  Please learn more and always speak with your physician before making lifestyle changes yourself.  Lacuna Loft supports healthy living.  Find what works best for you!