Ginger Snaps - The blog of Jayne Hawkins

Go Sober!

Right, all this toxic medicine has clearly affected me more than I ever thought possible and as a result I appear to have gone off the old vino! So I have decided to make something good come out of this disastrous occurrence and go on the wagon for October to raise some money for Macmillan Cancer.

Go Sober for October!

I would really appreciate it if you would kindly donate the price of a bottle of wine or the cost of a drink or two to this fantastic cause!

Radiotherapy starts!

19 Mar 2014

Herceptin and Perjeta number 7 were fine, no drastic side effects thankfully.  A bit of an upset tummy and a slightly funny taste in my mouth for a day or two but nothing like the nastiness chemo brought.  I also felt really tired on the Friday night, to the point where I took myself and my glass of wine off to bed and fell asleep…….spilling my wine!  Nasty side effect that! 

So the next stage is radiotherapy.  In order for this to happen I needed to be able to get my arm above my head whilst lying on the bed.  Prior to my operation I visited the physiotherapist who checked my range of movement and showed me the exercises I needed to be doing as soon as surgery was done.  I took this all with a pinch of salt if I’m honest as my main concern was how I’d feel emotionally after the operation so it was a bit of a shock when I simply couldn’t lift my arm above shoulder height and had naff all strength in it. 

I was therefore a little bit worried about my first post operation physio session as I had visions of getting shouted at and being told I was miles behind and that radiotherapy would be delayed.  It turns out the physiotherapist was lovely but she didn’t half hurt me!  I actually felt quite queasy as she stretched me, mauled me and popped things in my arm!  However after 20 minutes my arm was pretty much where it needed to be so I was good to go ahead with the radiotherapy sessions.  

  • Radiotherapy starts! - Picture 1

The first part of this involved a CT scan to check where my internal organs are as they need to avoid zapping them.  Whilst I was having this I was also given 4 tattoos which will help the radiographers line me up each time with the machine.  Luckily my hospital removes these afterwards which is quite good. 

After this I needed a couple more sessions with the physiotherapist who wanted to make sure I had absolutely no problems getting my arm into the correct position for the actual radiotherapy.  Apparently I will likely need more physio after radiotherapy as I’m not allowed to do my exercises during it as my skin may break down so stretching and moving too much isn’t a good idea.  That will be something to look forward to!

So my first session was booked for 17th March……the day after my 40th birthday.  Happy birthday to me eh!!  Never mind though as needs must and all that.  I had a fairly quiet birthday spending the weekend in a nice hotel over in Haltwhistle with family and finishing things off with afternoon tea and prosecco.  If I’m honest going through this rubbish wasn’t in the plans for my 40th so I had a few tears about that on the day.  However turning 40 wasn’t too bad and I had a nice time in the end and got lots of lovely cards and gifts off family and friends.  We also have our road trip to the States to look forward to in the summer which is part of my celebrations so it’s all good.  

  • Radiotherapy starts! - Picture 2

Anyway back to radiotherapy…….I have made the decision to take myself to these appointments.  Simon has been with me for all of my chemo treatments and has come along to anything with a consultant or nurse where we have been given information about my actual treatment and results but for things like this, as with MRI’s and heart scans I didn’t see the point in dragging him or anybody along to simply wait outside for me.  However radiotherapy is apparently really tiring and as a result you are allowed to register up to 3 cars for car parking at the hospital.  I’ve registered my car, Simon’s car and my folks’ car in case I need to ask for a lift but hopefully I won’t need to ask. 

So I arrived on time for my first session, changed into my lovely “access gown” and got onto the table.  The radiographers lined me up and with it being my first session they asked a senior member of staff to check everything.  Sadly there was a slight problem in that things were very tight for the beam covering the last mm of my scar and they wanted a consultant to check things so I didn’t actually get my first treatment.  This was a bit of a bummer as it meant treatment would spill over into the kid’s school holidays but only by one day so isn’t too much of a trauma in the grand scheme of things.  The next day I was all lined up again and the consultant checked things and was happy as Id had a complete response to chemo and my tumours were at the other side of my scar. 

So the staff line you and your tattoos up with the machine and position the bed in the right place……..I’m way up high, practically eye level with the radiographers heads and slightly wonky!  Good job I’m not afraid of heights.  Once they are happy you are all set up they leave the room although there are cameras so you can signal to them if you have a problem.  The machine is kind of above me and over to one side to start with and it then makes a series of buzzing noises before moving right over me to quite low down on the other side before making a few more buzzing noises and that’s pretty much it.  The actual treatment takes a couple of minutes then I am free to go home.  It doesn’t hurt at all and I was quite disappointed with the dullness of it all really.  I think it would be much more interesting if they added coloured lights and sound effects!  

  • Radiotherapy starts! - Picture 3

Treatment at this stage is every day for 3 weeks as I need 15 blasts so it’s a bit of a chew going to the hospital every day.  Luckily I have been given appointments that will allow me to drop the kids off at school and head straight to the hospital.  With a bit of luck they won’t be too delayed at this point although they do have a notice board that tells you how delayed each room is so you can nip for a coffee if need be to kill time.  I also go into the same treatment room each time with the same staff which isn’t too bad but I must admit it’s not the greatest feeling lying on that table.  The staff I have are very nice but for the first time in all of this I kind of feel like a piece of meat.  I need to keep telling myself its short term and I’m sure I’ll get over it!  As for side effects I’m told there aren’t too many however in about a week I’m told my skin will start to feel burnt, basically like sunburn.  I have to put cream on each day and they check me every week and can give me different things to try if it’s quite bad.  As I write this (whilst having Herceptin and Perjeta number 8 out of 18) I’m 2 blasts down and all is quiet with my skin but I don’t expect things to carry on like that for very long.  Radiotherapy is also known to peak 7 to 10 days after it finishes so we will just have to see how things go. 

In other news my hair is kind of returning, I have a fair amount at the back and sides but the top is very very thin!  It’s really fair too so the chances of going out in public are low as I still look bald.  I’ve therefore asked for a new wig prescription as my current wig is a bit frazzled at the ends now – aside from my growing hairs thinness I’m not actually prepared to go out with grey curls which is likely how it will return at the start, that may sound rather vane but that’s the way I feel.  Whilst I’m happy to wander round the house wigless I’m not brave enough to do the same outside and I think the kids are worried about that too so it’s unfair to do that to them.  So watch this space, hopefully I’ll have the guts to get a different style but knowing me Ill order the same as what I have now!  

  • Radiotherapy starts! - Picture 4
  • Radiotherapy starts! - Picture 5

I also have my new fake boob!  That was a fairly simple process at the hospital – a nurse guessed my size and brought be a couple to try on, very similar to buying shoes really.  It’s fairly lightweight and quite comfy to the point that I certainly don’t know I’m particularly wearing it and I can still get away with strappy tops which is nice for the summer. 

So it’s great that I am getting “nearer to the finish line” but for me it’s actually really scary as it’s starting to feel like my safety net will be taken away soon.  Lots of people point out to me that I’m nearly finished but I think that’s when the hard part starts.  Yes the chemo was hard and I felt a bit rubbish but whilst I was having it it was killing stuff off.  Yes the surgery got rid of what it had to and the radiotherapy is a fantastic insurance policy but once that is over its almost like I will have little focus in terms of getting rid of and keeping cancer away from me and so the worry of recurrence then starts and I think that is going to be very hard to deal with.  I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to put this behind me as its always going to be hanging over my head but I’ll worry about that a bit later and concentrate on being zapped for the time being…..…….13 more to go!!!!

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