01 May 2014
It’s been 3 weeks since radiotherapy finished now so I thought I’d blog a little update on how the fall-out from that went. Luckily it was OK and my skin and I haven’t been too bad. I finished the 3 solid weeks of radiotherapy on the Monday and had my usual treatment on the Wednesday so by the time we went away on holiday on the Thursday in our caravan I was absolutely wrecked. However a few decent nights sleep on holiday and a lot of fresh air and exercise in the Peak District and I started to feel a lot better.
During the two weeks leading up to radiotherapy I had tried to prepare my skin by putting aloe vera on the area. During the treatment I washed only in simple shower gel and used the specific cream I’d been given from the hospital. After the last session I moved back onto aloe vera. My skin went a little pink, I kind of had an iron shaped mark sticking out of my top but I was lucky in that it didn’t ever feel hot or burnt.
I had a little irritated patch under my arm and used a gel the hospital had given me for that and this soon cleared up. My arm became rather tight from top to bottom but I had been told not to do my exercises during treatment in case the skin broke down so I knew to expect this. 3 weeks afterwards and my arm is still like this but it is easing so I am now able to restart the exercises and I will also go back to see the Physiotherapist so hopefully that will help somewhat.
In all of this the arm problems have been quite a shock. I honestly didn’t realise how much the surgery would affect the arm. Despite the fact that my scar is nowhere near my arm or armpit the problems I seem to have been left with are a little bit rubbish. The fact that they pulled all my lymph nodes out from my arm pit and upper arm through the mastectomy cut has clearly left some internal scarring and problems. My arm pit is completely numb which is quite a gross sensation although it does itch sometimes but when I go to scratch it I can’t feel myself scratching (most odd I must say).
The arm itself is also a lot weaker than before and given its my right arm and I’m right handed this makes everyday life just a little bit harder as I need to stop and remember not to overload the arm. However I suppose in the grand scheme of things it’s not too major and something I’ll just need to live with, things could be worse!
Anyway my skin seems back to normal now which is good and I gather in a month or so I can go and have my 5 tattoos removed by laser if I want. I think I will have them done as it will remove what could have been a permanent reminder of this journey. So that was radiotherapy, not too bad luckily for me…….another stage complete!
A couple of exciting things have happened this weekend which I need to tell you about. I’ve mentioned often my online chemo buddies the “Stars”. Just to remind you all I met these ladies via the Breast Cancer Care website as we were all starting the dreaded chemo in September 2013. Well this weekend 26 of us travelled to Birmingham to meet up in person. I was a little nervous as I’m not normally one for travelling half way across the country to spend two nights with a bunch of people I’ve never met!
It was quite an emotional weekend and although cancer was discussed at times the rest of the time we just chatted like normal friends do. A few celebratory cocktails were consumed and we raised a toast to 2 Stars who lost the fight within a day of each other in February. We also got free fizz off a bar manager who found out why we were all there which was a good result. So it was lovely to meet so many of these brave ladies who have fought alongside me.
I arrived back in Newcastle rather tired on Sunday afternoon and rushed straight to a local hotel to take part in a fashion show to raise money for Breast Cancer and Oncology services at the hospital where I am being treated. Everybody who took part in the show has a connection to breast cancer be it themselves or a relative. Over 300 tickets were sold so it took some courage to walk out onto the catwalk but it was quite good fun.
When I first signed up I thought it would be a quick walk up and down the catwalk but it turned out to be a properly choreographed routine which was way out of my comfort zone I must say. The event raised £3,000 which was fabulous so it was absolutely worth it!
So all in all it was quite a weekend……..very emotional in that at the end of it I sat down and realised I had spent a weekend with 25 women with breast cancer and had then taken part in a fashion show full of people that have a connection to breast cancer and the reason I was at both of these events was because I had breast cancer – it was one of those OMG moments that hit me once in a while!
However I think the word I need to keep in my head is “HAD”……..I had breast cancer. When I was having my last treatment I asked about this business of “remission”. It’s not a term my hospital use, however they did explain that they had given me chemotherapy first to improve the outcome of surgery and that because the chemo got rid of the cancer and surgery was used afterwards too I had therefore been “successfully treated for cancer” and no longer have it. The treatment they are currently giving me (which lasts until October/November) is to try to ensure it does not come back. So that’s the medical version of where I am in this rubbish journey.
In other news my hair is returning. It’s not great as its long at the back (well I say long……..it’s about 1cm long) and short on top (0.5cm long). However there is a full covering and it seems to have colour to it. It’s also straight but then again I suppose it’s too short to curl and was also fairly straight when I shaved it off on a #4 blade back in September so I’m not getting too excited yet.
I am still planning to return to work after the May week. Physically I feel quite back to normal other than I tire more easily these days and am still coming to terms with the dodgy arm. However this has been a rather fast paced journey. I began the onslaught of chemo only a couple of weeks after I was first diagnosed, my operation was less than 4 weeks after my last chemo and I began 3 weeks of radiotherapy less than 6 weeks after the operation.
This was exactly how I wanted things to be as I just wanted to get through it as fast as possible but if I’m honest the pace of it hasn’t really given me the chance to contemplate the magnitude of everything. Although the main part of the treatment is now over I’m only actually half way through it and that doesn’t include the reconstruction process. There is a hell of a long way to go really. So for my own sanity I think I need to take a few weeks to check my head is actually OK before I head back to work.
So that’s where we are at the minute. Getting there slowly but surely xx
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