Returning to normal…well almost!

It has been a while since my last entry as the last few months have been a time of gradual change, and not that exciting to read about!

I was a bit of a slow developer and the full effects of my radiotherapy didn’t kick in until three to four weeks after the end of my treatment, and I ended up with a lovely red rhomboid shape mapping the exact pattern of the linear accelerator’s path!. I wish I had shares in E45, as I have got through so many tubs of it!. But it was worth the investment as my oncologist was surprised that my skin had recovered this well at this time. And I am glad to say that my body also continues to heal from the surgery, and the “curled up T shirt” feeling I used to get when I lifted my arms up has finally gone. Also my strength and stamina are gradually returning albeit slowly. You may be pleased to hear that the Omega 3 fish oil also helped my left foot, and I can now feel all my toes!

I can now also manage the four flights of stairs to the staff room at work, even though I am puffing like a steam train by the time I get to the top. And I managed to cut my own toenails for the first time in 4 months, little goals, but good ones!

It won’t surprise those that know my love of planning, to hear that I had a plan for my return to work. And one of the items on this list was to attend the course called “Moving Forward” run by

https://www.breastcancercare.org.uk/

It is specifically designed for those returning to work after long periods of treatment and I found it informative and uplifting.

One of the subjects covered which was of particular interest to me was lymphoedema. (for the ease of two-fingered typing I will now abbreviate lymphoedema to LD!). The talk we had from a member of the local LD team was very informative. She explained that everyone’s lymphatic system is different, and none of us know how close to capacity our systems are running at. This means that one person who has had very minor surgery may go on to develop LD very quickly and another who has had quite major surgery doesn’t develop it at all! So her advice was to do all we could to prevent LD but not to worry, as if we do develop it, caught in the early stages it is manageable. She also recommended measuring the limb that is likely to be affected, now, so that we would know if it was swelling. I thought this was an excellent idea and mine have been duly noted! But sadly for me, the prevention of LD includes the cessation of my corset wearing…a dark day. But I have decided to go with waistcoats instead and will be back on eBay with a new search!. It also gives me more reason to do lots of my clothing adaptations.

We also heard a talk from an oncologist with decades of experience that left me feeling much more positive. He wanted us all, now we had completed our treatment to go out and enjoy life, as we deserved it, and not to spend it worrying about what may or may not happen. He also said that even if our cancer was to return it is now treated much like a chronic illness and many people live for years with it, by just dealing with the symptoms as they arise. I liked this viewpoint, it was very reassuring.

We were also given an article to read by Peter Harvey, called “After the treatment finishes then what?” See the link below:-

http://www.cancercounselling.org.uk/Peter%20Harvey%20-%20After%20the%20Treatment%20Finishes%20then%20What.pdf?openElement

This is definitely worth a read, and to print off and give to your employer before or on your return to work. It is useful because it helps the person that has been through the treatment not to beat themselves up when they feel tired or emotional, and helps others to understand the physical and psychological effects that cancer treatment has.

One vital part of my return to work plan was to get my hair done! Obviously there wasn’t that much to work with, but as my new hair is naturally forming a “fauxhawk” I decided to go with the flow and am leaving it long on the top and very short on the sides. I couldn’t leave it it’s natural colour (even though I was very glad to see so little grey) and I am now sporting a warming burgundy bonce! I have a feeling that as my style develops the colour may become more vibrant…I have always fancied blue!

I am now back at work, and the company I work for allows a gradual 6 week return to work to build up my working hours, and even though I had thought my plan was gradual I have found that I was expecting far too much too soon and have adapted my plan somewhat!. The fatigue manifests itself in two ways for me, either a general overwhelming tiredness, or I am doing fine then suddenly hit a “ brick wall” and feel that I cannot go on!.

Luckily I work with an amazing group of people who gave me such a wonderful welcome back and are continuing to support me in every way they can.

This week I went for a fitting for my prosthetic boobs, they are so lifelike, they wobble and feel like real breasts when you handle them. Much more realistic than my cumfies. It showed just how much women are used to carrying the weight of their breasts, as when I carried them home they made my arm ache, but in a bra I didn’t notice the weight at all!

My only problem is storage, as they are massive (not wanting to boast) and need to be kept in special boxes that are 8x8x5 inches each! They definitely won’t fit in my knitted knockers box!

Again I have to give thanks for the NHS, as to buy these breasts would have cost approximately £300, a great deal of money.

So for now my story is done. I am today, free of disease, my body is well on the way to recovery and I am back at work. It has been one hell of a year, with huge challenges both physically and mentally. But strangely it has been a good year too, as it has shown me how much I am loved and I have received many random acts of kindness from friends and strangers that have touched me deeply. I don’t know what the future holds, but I am still here and I intend to enjoy that fact every day!

I have really enjoyed writing this blog , thank you for reading it and I may well be back with a new topic in the future! So watch this space…

To Radiotherapy and beyond!

Walking into the radiotherapy treatment room is a bit like walking onto a sci-fi set. There is an adjustable bed in the centre with various attachments, a number of computer monitors on stalks on the walls, lots of lights and a camera set in the ceiling and finally the star of the show…the Linear Accelerator!

Having removed the necessary items of clothing and put my boobs on the chair, I climbed onto the bed. My special attachment was a stirrup for my left arm to keep it up and out of the way during treatment. It was much like those used in other tests us ladies have to undertake!

Once I was settled the radiographers then used my tattoo markers to line me up on the bed. The general lights were then dimmed and green ones now generated a grid across my body. One of the radiographers called out the required grid settings while the other checked that this matched where I was on the bed. (As the room was quite cold they also kindly draped my cardigan over the half of my body that was not being treated, to keep me warm). Once they were happy that I was correctly positioned they left the room, but I was constantly observed by cameras in case I was to do something silly like fall off of the bed!

Things then became even more like the sick bay on the starship Enterprise. The very large, circular, stainless steel head of the linear accelerator moves around to it’s first position and delivers it’s rays with an ominous hum, whirrs and then moves into the next, and this dance continues until the treatment cycle is complete. For me the last couple were delivered from under the bed so that they could get right up into my armpit! In my head I could see any remaining cancer cells splatting like paint-ball pellets, so I smiled all the way through the procedure!

The treatment only takes a few minutes and is not at all painful. I was however, advised to use E45 cream three times a day, drink two litres of water daily and try not to wear tight clothing that would rub on the treatment area. This is all to help the skin to cope with the treatment as it can suffer quite badly. Also to keep up my daily exercises as everything was likely to get very tight again.

Being the good patient that I am I did all this and it paid off, as on my last appointment I was told that my skin was less inflamed than they would expect at that stage. The worst effects actually happen in the 7-10 days after the end of treatment but should completely clear within six weeks.

Halfway through my three week course I was given a review, which for me was a wonderful opportunity to talk to someone about all the treatment I had had. Yet again I was reassured, given confidence and have another person I can ring at any time with concerns.

I need to take a moment here to say how wonderful all the staff have been throughout all my treatments and appointments. I have been made to feel like they all truly care about how I am and want to do their best to help me. With our NHS struggling with a lack of facilities and heavy workloads for all the staff, I really appreciated them taking time to care and can’t praise them all highly enough!

Oh and I never thought I would be so happy to have bingo wings, but as I am at a high risk of developing lymphoedema, due to my lack of lymph nodes, all the time those wings are wobbling I know I am still ok!

NB: I have contacted the lovely people from Knitted Knockers and they were very happy for me to include a link to their site.

http://www.knittedknockers.org/