Wednesday 9 March 2016

Radio Ga Ga

I've been cut up and poisoned so it's now time for the next stage of my be burned - AKA blasted by a very expensive radiotherapy machine.

Ok so they aren't exactly going to come at me with a blow touch but the side effects of radiotherapy do involve you getting quite the burn. Think severe sunburn but without the holiday abroad.

So apart from a skin reaction the other side effects of radiotherapy include: 

Swelling - I quite like this one. Since my lumpectomy that boobs been a bit smaller so I'm hoping a bit of swelling might even things out. Silver linings and all

Fatigue - I've been ridiculously tired since August so this is nothing new for me

Rib tenderness - ahhh the joys

Lung scarring - my doctor said this shouldn't effect my breathing (nice use of the word 'shouldn't' there) but they need to make me aware in case I had future surgery and they where to question the scar on my lung. I'm slightly worried that they think a future surgeon wouldn't know I had radiotherapy before performing any surgery on me but hey ho this is the NHS after all.

Cardiac toxicity - radiotherapy may cause heart damage although due to modern techniques the risk of this is much lower. Phew! My Herceptin treatment can also cause heart problems, which is why I have regular MUGA scans. My poor heart. Thank god it's already black. Ha I'm just kidding! 

Secondary malignancy - this is a goodie isn't it?! My cancer treatment can actually cause future cancers. Brilliant. Love a bit of irony. Oh and before the 'pro cannabis meme makers' of the Internet get on their high horses - the benefits of radiotherapy outweigh the risks. 

Pain - this is a nice general one isn't it. Good to know.

Skin changes - it's common to notice a slight change in your skin colour for some months after treatment. I'm going to be a modern day MJ.

Lymphoedema - I'm already at risk of this as I had a couple of lymph nodes removed during my surgery. As I'm not having radiotherapy to my armpit they don't think I should be at any further risk

Scar tissue - surgery and radiotherapy can cause scar tissue to form. No biggie. 

So lots of side effects and evidently some are much worse than others. 

I'm having a total of 20 sessions of radiotherapy. They usually give breast cancer patients 15 sessions but as I'm at a high risk of reaccorrance they are giving me an extra 5 booster sessions. So that's 20 sessions everyday Monday-Friday for four weeks. 

I had my initial consultation a couple of weeks after chemo. I asked Dr T if I could start radiotherapy after my birthday. Normally they start radiotherapy about two weeks after the first planning meeting so that was no problem as it was in line with her plans anyway. 

So I got to enjoy my birthday and do fun things like this:

...and eat lots of things like this:

My planning meeting included signing my consent forms and getting lined up for radiotherapy. 

Getting lined up is quite complex as they have to be very precise so they cause as little damage as possible to my heart and lungs. I had to lie on a very uncomfortable ct machine, which was a bit like a giant washing machine rotating around me. They added some wires to my bad boob and drew lots of stuff on me. It felt like they where drawing small marks on me but they could have been having a whale of a time drawing little penises all over me for all I knew! I didn't look down as I was concentrating on doing as I was told and lying very still. 

After I had the ct scan one of the nurses gave me my three tattoos. Yes I have to have permanent tattoos!! Can you even? I thought this was quite cool but it turns out they are just tiny little dots in a navy blue coloured ink. A bit like those old style sailor tattoos. Not very attractive. 

Can you remember that episode of Friends when Rachel got a heart shaped tattoo? Phoebe was meant to get one too but she ended up being too scared and just had a blue dot. She said it was what she looks like to her mum in heaven. It was a tattoo of the whole world. 

So that's what I think my tattoos our of. Three WHOLE WORLDS!! 

The tattoo in the middle of my chest was meant to be the most painful so I had that one done first. It actually didn't feel too bad. It just stung a bit like an injection - and I'm getting used to those now. 

The photo below shows one of my tattoos after it had been done. (Ignore the criss cross. That's just pen. The actual tattoo is just the tiny dot in the middle)

I had my first radiotherapy session about two weeks after I had my planning meeting. 

The appointment itself only takes a couple of minutes (shame it's an hour travelling there and back). It's all organised with military precision. From the waiting room you go in to the changing room that has a door on the other side. You get changed in to a hospital gown and put your personal items in a plastic basket.

Then you go through the door, which leads to the radiotherapy room armed with your basket of personal items.

The room itself is quite large, which I thought made it a lot scarier. The radiotherapy machine itself is really big and looks something like this:

I'll try and get a picture of my actual machine before my treatment ends. You have to lay down on a rather uncomfortable bed with all sorts of stirrups for your head and arms as well as a leg rest for your legs. I then have to hold on to a bar above my head with my left arm and whack my boob out ready to be zapped. I'm obviously quite accustomed to whacking my boob out in front of several strangers now so it doesn't bother me.

After an ID check the radiographers do some drawing on my boobs and line me up. They then put an alarm on and leave the room whilst the zapping commences. I imagine they head off to some sort of control room like in Inside Out.

I'm possibly wrong though.

I don't look down but I know there is some green lasers on my boob and I can here a loud buzzing sound throughout the session - but it literally only takes a couple of minutes. 

Sometimes they put a bit of music on to try and drown out the buzzing noise. It's usually Whitney Houston on a Friday. I suppose it can't be anything to funky in case you start moving. I don't think radiographers really need bopping feet and jiggling hips while they are trying to zap people with radium.

After the session is over I grab my basket of personal items and head to the other changing room labelled 'way out'. Get changed and then I go through the adjoining door back in to the waiting room. All very quick and painless.

I've now had all my 'normal' sessions of radiotherapy and started on my boosters. Boosters are pretty much the same but they add a large metal frame between the machine and my boob. It looks like a toture device but it looks a lot worse than it is. 

My burns are meant to peak about 14 days after my treatment is over with but so far it doesn't look too bad. 

I've been slapping on the Aqueous cream they gave me like there is no tomorrow so hopefully that's helping. 

So, compared to chemo, I don't think radiotherapy is going too badly at all. I get a 'cancer perk' of free parking and at the minute it looks like my sunburn is starting to go brown so a bit of free tanning on the NHS...

...albeit it is just on the one side of my body. 



  1. The past 4 years of my life has been years of torment right from when i was diagnosed with breast cancer (triple negative) stage IV. It was hard for me because i never in my life imagined i would have anything related to cancer. The first two years my oncologist gave me so much hope that i had to undergo chemo and radiation therapy twice and the lymph nodes were still there. It kept reoccurring and i was about to lose it all. I lost weight and i had high blood pressure due to steady thinking. I got the contact of Dr. Roland whom i was told treats cancer naturally with herbal medicine, i never believed but i was dying and to satisfy my curiosity i had to invite him over and he came with his medicine and began to treat me for a month. In three months time i didn't feel any symptoms and i decided to confirm and i went to my oncologist for a test and i tested negative to cancer. I never believed in herbal methods or treatments but now i do because it saved me. You too can contact him for more info on any form of cancer and also about his medicine and treatment process on ( do not die in ignorance and never give up hope.

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