But there you go, a bit about radiotherapy, well, the radiotherapy I’ve received anyway. I can’t praise my nurses highly enough. They’ve been wonderful, even when it’s clearly been a stressful day, but boy am I ready to not have to see them every day!
This week sees the end of my active treatment – as 5 weeks of radiotherapy, and more importantly, 10 months of cancer treatment comes to an end, so I thought it was about time I popped something up about this stage of what’s been going on!
I’ve lost count of the people who’ve told me in the last month that I must be glad my treatment is over. Or being told how easy radiotherapy is. Mostly by people who haven’t experienced it. But I guess they, like me a month or so ago, don’t realise just what a pain in the bum radiotherapy, rads, is! They don’t know about the side effects that mean your skin might blister and become sore and they don’t realise just how draining it is. How the fatigue will wash over you and leave you on the sofa for an age unable to drag yourself up. Or how sheltered I was having chemo at the private hospital because being in the radiotherapy department every day is overwhelming and full of people much sicker than me.
If I am honest, I went into radiotherapy knowing more about the moisturiser I should buy to get through it than the treatment itself. That might still be true. But my radiotherapy has consisted of 23 sessions, over nearly 5 weeks. 15 of them were full boob radiotherapy sessions and then 8 boosters to the site of my lump. The boosters are apparently recommended for women under 40 so I’m taking my oncologists advice and having them too.
But from what I’ve learnt from my nurses is that radiotherapy is essentially controlled high energy x-rays, targeted at the area of my cancer, that mops up and destroys any rogue cancer cells that might have made it through the chemo and the lumpectomy.
So I now have a series of tattoos to help the nurses line me up on the machines. I get to wear these beautiful gowns whilst I’ve waited for the treatment. I’ve been shifted around and lined up to be fit with the soups and the infs the nurses chat about daily – I’m 24 this way and 92 that way. I’ve chatted to other people having treatment. I’ve read hardbacks.
As for what happens during a radiotherapy session – I thought it best not to film it for you because my boobs are out and no-one needs to see that. But I lay on the bed, my hands above my head, clamped on to two bars, whilst the machine moves round me, shooting the rays in to me. And then for my booster, because this uses a different type of ray that doesn’t travel very far into your body, there’s an attachment that concentrates the effects.
And as for the side effects. Man the tiredness has floored me. And it’s a strange tiredness that comes in waves. Hits you when you least expect it. And inconstantly. But until this week I thought I was doing pretty well with the skin based side effects – I had redness, what I assume it’s like if you’re sunbathing nekid and burn your boob, but I thought I was going to get away with missing out on the ‘skin breakdown’ I got warned about so much. But nope, just as I come to the end, my skin has to split. Which is so frustrating as I really don’t have the time for my skin to be all gross! Plus, it’s pretty painful.