Yesterday was my last radiotherapy. Three weeks of going up to Ipswich hospital every day apart from Saturdays and Sundays. But yet again, the staff made it as comfortable and ‘fun’ as it could possibly be – I really can’t praise them enough.
The first step of treatment is a planning scan where they work out the area that needs zapping. During this appointment I was given 3 tattoos – unfortunately not pretty flowers or butterflies – just 3 black dots so the machine can be lined up perfectly. Then two weeks later I went for my first treatment…
Everyone says radiotherapy is a doddle after chemotherapy so I wasn’t too worried about it. Getting on the bed and into position is not the easiest or the most dignified – arms raised above my head on the red bits, bum behind a metal plate, and knees over the blue rest thingy. I had my own special and very attractive gown that I wore each day so my boob could be popped out easily, as could all the tattoos. Slightly embarrassed about the underarm hair that has now come back (why couldn’t chemo have killed those follicles permanently??!!) as was told not to wet shave and do not have an electric razor – however, rectified that after I realised by pinching Big G’s!!
So the radiologists are pulling and pushing me, lining up the tattoos, randomly saying numbers to each other. As my appointments were all early in the morning, I had the disadvantage of them having very cold hands most of the time! And what is it about being told you can’t move and getting the worst itch on your nose, or the back of your neck, just like when you paint your nails… pure torture! But the banter was good and I felt very at ease. Until they left the bloody room….! Now I knew this would happen, and I’ve been on my own for lots of scans since diagnosis, but this first morning it totally overwhelmed me. During chemo there was always so many people about, nurses, patients and relatives, and of course Big G. Suddenly, to be going through treatment alone and with a machine moving around my body whilst making strange noises, seemed very daunting. Luckily the actual process of the radiotherapy only takes a few minutes so they were soon back in the room, and I was fine every other day.
Everything has gone very smoothly, thank goodness. I have been quite sore for the last few days; my right boob looks, and feels, like it is sunburnt and very tender where the scarring is from the operation. This will unfortunately get worse for the next 10-14 days but should then start improving. And I guess I’ll have a very brown boob by the end – as one lady described it “It’s like my boob went to Africa on holiday and forgot to take me with it”!!
One plus point – I’ve been weighed in the clinic twice since starting and each time have lost a little weight. Not much, but then I’m still not very active (still knackered most of the time) but considering I put on each time I was weighed when having chemo, I’ll take a little loss!
There is a bell in the radiotherapy department that someone donated for patients to ring to signify the end of treatment (like I’m sure you’ve seen on the advert about childhood cancers). When I was having chemo I heard it rung a few times and it made me smile. Now you would think it would be something I would rush to do, however something was holding me back. One reason being that I’m not really at the end of my treatment – I’ve still got Herceptin injections every 3 weeks, Zoladex injections every 3 months, heart scans, and Hormone therapy for 10 years. So was it right for me to ring it? But the main thing that worried me was being very conscious that others were still having treatment and that they may not get the all clear at the end of it. When I finished chemo I left the clinic very quietly, as I knew some people were there to help prolong life rather than for a cure, and so felt very uneasy about celebrating too loudly that I was through that bit. And I was feeling very much the same yesterday. But the receptionist thought I should ring it, the radiologists thought I should ring it, Bryony wanted a photo of me ringing it, and I thought I may regret it if I didn’t! So I gave it one, very quiet, ‘ding’ – felt silly, hence the awful photo as couldn’t get away quick enough!
So that’s another thing ticked off the list… and I’m doing ok! I’m a bit worried that others will expect me to be back to normal fairly soon, and I hope to god I am, but know this is a long process. The Zoladex injections are forcing me into the menopause so the hot flushes (power surges) are coming thick and fast. I’m not sleeping at all well due to these, pain from the ‘sunburn’ and still quite a bit of discomfort from the operation, and the hormone therapy is starting to make my joints hurt like hell, so also not ideal.
But enough of me moaning! Had the best news yesterday from a friend whose tumours have significantly shrunk against all odds – go Jemma!