I have now reached the end of Phase One of the radiotherapy treatment. Phase 2, the Boost stage, is two days old and next week will be the last 5 days of treatment. I am so looking forward to just being able to stay at home and not go to Wellington every week.
Phase One didn’t leave my skin very happy and the fatigue associated with radiotherapy has well and truly set in. I have one depleted boob to which three types of different emollients should be applied on a twice daily basis. I have one cream for a mild itchy area on my rib cage, another for the area of the hot pink boob. Under arm and under boob is a whole other story, with both just being beds of pain combined with a fearful itch with the skin having turned quite a dark brown. I have another gel to be applied there and am on regular painkillers to control the pain side of things. Of course the bed of pain under my arm also coincides with the edge of my bra. I have been given medical pads to insert over that area but am not allowed to tape it in place as the most mild of their sticking tapes disagrees with my skin and at all costs the thing to be avoided is having any broken skin.
Whoever thought this would be a breeze. However, I have to keep reminding myself that I am one of the luckier ones who didn’t have to undergo chemotherapy as well.
Boost therapy means that they now add the contraption above to the circular part of the machine in the previous post and the radiation blasts are now considerably shorter and aimed specifically at the site the tumours were removed from. This contraption concentrates the beam to a point where it is only about 1.5cm above my skin. The have to put a moist pad on me, presumably to prevent drastic burns while the machine irradiates me. Nearly all the measurements have changed now, except the first one.
The first session of this Boost treatment probably didn’t go as it should have. I was sited and swiveled according to all their new measurements, still with arms outstretched above my head. Firstly they didn’t have all the pieces of the additional contraption pictured above, One bit arrived, then the second bit, but there was one bit they couldn’t find. Finally it arrived, a thick lense which was inserted into the bottom of the contraption at the point nearest my skin. Secondly, they had to take an X-ray and then the treatment was supposed to start. After I thought the X-Ray had been taken the therapists dashed back into the room and said that the treatment would be delayed a couple of minutes while they amended my ‘plan’ – just a matter of some “data entry, that’s all”. So after some twenty minutes in this artificially contrived position I was in they finally came back, apologised, and said that they would take the X-ray again and then the treatment would commence straight away. Fortunately, with all the right pieces in place, and the right data in the plan, the second run went rather more smoothly than the first. But I was so relieved to get off the hard table and bring my arms back down beside me.
After the Phase 1 treatments I have felt like a heated fry pan from my waist up for several hours after the treatment. To put it indelicately sweat has just poured off me in rivers. Clothing has stuck to me, how many tissues have I gone through soaking up the rivers off my face. I’ve tried all sorts of ways to cool myself but nothing would work and any physical exertion just made it worse.
The second of these boost treatments was yesterday. So on the day of the second boost treatment I woke up and from the moment I arose there it was all over again, sweating rivers before I had even made it to the bathroom! And I hadn’t even had the treatment for the day. I had a cool shower and that made no difference, went down and had breakfast, all cold with a cold water to accompany it – no difference. I had an early appointment yesterday so went over to the hospital at 8.10am. It’s only a 5 minute walk but I was dripping buckets by the time I got there. Even the radiation therapists were surprised by the volume of it. So much so, that they hastily organised an appointment with a doctor for straight after the radiation treatment. The treatment at least went smoothly, but the beautiful hospital gown was stuck to my back by the time I rose from the table. The doctor checked me out. My observations were taken and noted down on a paper towel!!! But in the end the doctor could find no explanation for it. But there was nothing sinister behind it, she said.
I went back to Margaret Stewart House and packed my bag for the homeward trip later in the day. Because yesterday was my session at the ‘Look Good Feel Good’ seminar, I then walked back to the hospital and took a taxi to the location in Taranaki Street where the seminar was being held. I was dripping all the way and my clothes and tissues continued to soak up the rivulets while I was in the Taxi. I was thinking that there would be no way anyone could ever apply make-up to my face while it was in such a state of drip. When I arrived I was greeted at the entrance by an old friend I had worked with at Bell Gully many years ago. We chatted, and I dripped. Inside I was shown to a long table where (for me) there was an inedible morning tea being served, but at least I had another cup of water. During the morning tea I chatted with another lady whom I had met at the House and dripped more. I was really getting worried by then. Eventually we were asked to take our places at the named spaces around tables which had been set up with mirrors and were laid out with make up and skin care products, specific to each of our needs and/or choices. And strangely enough, confronted with all that (four hours after it had started) I suddenly began to cool off and the drip dried up. I was so relieved.
The Look Good Feel Good organisation is allied with the Cancer Society and gives Women with any type of Cancer, and at any stage of treatment a few hours tuition on how to make yourself look good mainly with make-up products, while you have cancer and ongoing. There was also a small session at the end for women who were undergoing chemo and different wigs/headwear available for them to look at and try out. After a full, personal makeover with the makeup and the relevant tuition we all (about 30 of us) left with over $700 worth of makeup and skin care products. I was lucky enough to take second prize in a raffle as well, so I had a bit extra booty to bring home.
I was expecting the worst again this morning but, thankfully, I have had no repeat of the dripping rivers. Two loads of washing on the line and the weekend can only get better. Tomorrow Frith (our elder daughter) arrives in Wellington to help me through the last week of the radiation therapy, one unexpected bonus of this whole wretched experience.