Breast cancer, Cancer, Chemotherapy, Food, Hair regrowth, Health, Ireland, Radiotherapy, St Vincent's, Wigs, Women's Health

Radiotherapy: Week Two

IMG_4205Ah, the definition of happiness: Soft-boiled eggs and toast soldiers with the papers on a Sunday afternoon when it’s raining outside.

You may not think that sounds that great, but anyone who’s ever lived with me knows I like nothing better than a pair of boiled (or poached) eggs of a weekend lunchtime and I’ve been deprived of this pleasure for FIVE WHOLE MONTHS. Why? Because chemotherapy is like pregnancy – you can’t drink (much) alcohol, you can’t eat soft cheese, raw fish, live yoghurt or soft-boiled eggs, because of the risk of infection. Anyway, nobody told me at what point it’s ok to start eating foods off the banned list again, but it’s been 6 weeks since my last chemo, so I figured I would allow myself the pleasure on this otherwise joyless weekend. And I haven’t vomited yet, which is promising.

Anyway, back to radiotherapy. Week two is officially done. Eight (sessions) down, 25 to go. This week during my daily blasts of radiation I was treated to the likes of Alicia Keys, Coldplay, Robbie Williams and even Fairground Attraction (“It’s got to be-e-e-e-e-e-e per-fect, yeah”) – I can’t say these are my favourite musical artists, but fortunately the radiation sessions were short and sweet and I didn’t have to listen to Coldplay’s warblings for long.

The major development of the week is that I went back to work – after five months off. I’m working in the mornings and going for radiation sessions followed by rest in the afternoons, which is a perfect set-up as I think I’d go stir-crazy if I was at home the entire time, but I do need the rest. Some people work during radiotherapy, while others don’t, depending on the side effects, but the tiredness hasn’t really set in yet so I’m happy to be able to go to work. Fortunately, I also work at a place that provides the most magnificent catering, so I’ve been treating myself to delicious healthy breakfasts of scrambled egg, grilled tomato, spinach and mushrooms, and they’ve even provided me with rice milk to help me along with me no-dairy crusade.

IMG_4206On Tuesday I arrived at the hospital a little early, so I decided to visit the breast care nurses who were there when I was first diagnosed, at this very hospital (St. Vincent’s, Dublin), more than six months ago.

As I approached the second floor of the hospital where the breast care department is, I could see the women sitting in the waiting room outside the very room where I was diagnosed. Some of them would be waiting there for their loved ones, others might be just about to get diagnosed – just about to walk into a room and be told the news that shakes up their entire world and changes the rest of their lives. Needless to say, it was quite emotional for me, returning there. I even went into the room where I received the shocking diagnosis on June 22 last year, and I just about managed not to cry.

Aside from being back at work, being back in Dublin after six months is quite strange for me, as I had only just moved here when I was diagnosed. It’s like the City That Stood Still. Basically, everything that was happening in my life before I left Dublin was frozen in time and it’s all hit me all over again now that I’m back, as if the last six months never happened. Only I know they did, because I only have to catch a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror to see the hairless face and I know I’m still a cancer patient. That said, it’s great to be back in my apartment and back at work, living a semi-normal life.

On Wednesday I had the bright idea that I would start cycling to work. It’s only a 10-minute walk so I figured cycling it would be even quicker. My bike has been babysat for the past six months by my very kind colleagues and my aim was to eventually be able to cycle it to the hospital each day (a 50-minute walk).

Bad idea. Whereas I thought I was regaining my fitness pretty quickly and have been walking around at my usual pre-cancer pace, it seems I am far from fit and have lost all the muscle mass in my thighs. The 10-minute cycle to work almost killed me. Not only because I nearly had to stop in traffic I was so puffed out, but also because I have forgotten everything they taught me in my primary school Cycle Safety course. So the bike is now firmly parked once again inside my apartment and will gradually be taken on further outings once I start feeling fitter.

On the hair front, I have been wearing wigs all week because I am still looking horribly patchy and bald. While I cannot wait for the day when I can stop wearing wigs and just go out with my bare head with an even layering of hair, at least I can say the wigs don’t give me headaches any more. Plus, even though they all know I’ve had chemotherapy for the past five months and am bald as a baby, that didn’t stop one of my closest colleagues from saying he didn’t even realise I was wearing a wig. So at least I’ve got a few people fooled!

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11 thoughts on “Radiotherapy: Week Two

  1. Elsie - Is Elsie Making Sense says:

    It’s lovely to hear you’re back at work, I hope other people with cancer or their families read this and get hope from you 🙂 Oh and dippy eggs and soldiers…THE best!

  2. Lisa Dawson says:

    Bet you are SO pleased to get back to the start of normality! You are right about the fitness – am still totally knackered despite finishing four weeks ago now (yay!). Where I thought I would feel euphoria, my body went, OMG all done, and I spent most of Christmas asleep! I think you push yourself on and one through the six sessions just aiming for the next one and when you don’t have to do it anymore, it’s a bit of a shock! And you are right about the returning to the hospital too – I went back to have the BRC01 test last week with a huge lump in my throat. Am also DESPERATE to have my hair back! Although it would be great to have it return with ready made highlights (after the huge shock when I shaved it off that I wasn’t actually a natural blonde). Am glad radio is going well and that you are able to have a poached egg without fear of repercussion! Lisa xxxx

    • Wow, time has flown so fast since you were going for that final chemo, congratulations! Hope you managed to enjoy Christmas despite all the chemo effects. Just keep sleeping for as long as you need – it’s doing you good!
      I was just chatting to another girl who said her eyebrows grew back really really fast, so that’s given me hope. My hair grew quite a bit after the 5th chemo but was still falling out 4 weeks after the 6th chemo so yours might not be properly growing yet. It’s now more like 7 weeks for me and it’s still not growing, but at least i’m seeing the occasional hair in places i haven’t seen any for 6 months (like my legs!) so that’s surely a good sign! Let’s keep our fingers crossed! xx
      PS Well done for getting the BRCA test – do you have to wait 3 months for your result though? You going private or NHS? Are you having radio now too?

      • Lisa Dawson says:

        Yes, In the back of my head, I naively thought that three weeks after my final chemo that it would all start returning but nearly five weeks after, that doesn’t seem to be the case! Aside, of course, from the one place I could do without it which is my legs. Yesterday I ate a spicy rice cracker and my mouth went loopy again which it hadn’t done for a while and is now painful again (hello Difflam).. So I guess it takes a bit of time to get through the system. I have to wait FOUR months for blood test result! Is being done at Oxford (I’ve been treated at Reading). They are pretty much under the impression it is not genetic, however, due to the type (tubular invasive) and grading. But I thought it was definitely the right thing to do – better to know than not. Have had treatment on the NHS which has been amazing actually. I would say the only time I wish I wasn’t was during the chemo sessions where I was sat on a ward wall to wall with patients which was truly hard going. No radio – my lymph were clear and it was very early stage and grading so didn’t need it. I had a skin saving mastectomy in July (I found out in May) which quite frankly looks amazing! (my consultant is a onco plastic surgeon). Am having an implant reconstruction in March, they are matching the other (32A so not hard….) so will have great boobs for the summer holidays if all goes well! Is a long hard slog, isn’t it? But we’ll get there in the end 🙂 xx

      • Of course – yeah, they said the BRCA result would be 3-4 months for me too if I went on the NHS and I couldn’t afford to wait that long so I went privately. Incidentally, the geneticist I went to – Gareth Evans – was on BBC News this morning being interviewed about this new development that they may start offering Tamoxifen as a preventative drug to ‘at risk’ women! I don’t think I would have classed as ‘at risk’ though and I don’t think there’s enough being done to look into the causes of BC in young women. Anyway, the 3-4 months (let’s be optimistic and think 3, as it may come back quicker!) will fly by and you’re right that it’s unlikely you’ll have the gene mutation so it won’t be at the forefront of your mind like it was mine (I was fairly convinced I had it as my grandmother had BC in her 30s). You are very brave and I think you’ve absolutely done the right thing by getting tested – I think it’s best to know and be able to act accordingly. That’s great that you don’t have to have radio – there’s so much other stuff to think about, you don’t need that as well! Glad the mastectomy worked out. My surgery was brilliant too, the scar is really fading fast (unlike the growth of my hair). Get lots of rest and sleep and your mouth will clear itself up eventually. Your immune system is probably still low – I was still neutropenic after more than 3 weeks so we need to rest! Loads of love xxx

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      • Hi Lisa, you’ll be pleased to know I finally bought the Lush soap as I walked past Lush yesterday and thought of you! The saleswoman was quick to insist that it won’t necessarily make new hairs grow but will strengthen the existing ones, but I’m willing to try anything! Maybe we should use it on our brows as well?! Might give it a try… hopefully it’s working.
        Hope you’re doing well! xxx

  3. Deirdre says:

    Great to see you settling back in Laura would say it was emotional alright going back to Level 2 at Vincents. Keep up the good work. Dee

  4. Liz Walker says:

    Morning Pricey,

    Things have processed sooo much for you in January, back in Dublin, starting work again must be a great feeling even though it is for half a day, you sound very lucky having such a nice eating area at work, sounds like they are looking after you well 🙂

    I know what you mean about flash backs, with us having to go to Kendal hospital when I’m in labour I’m sure will bring back memories of the last time we were there so I can totally understand your feelings.

    xx

    • Gosh, yes hun… well, we cross all these bridges when we come to them, no point worrying about it in advance, I guess. Hope you are feeling very well and enjoying 2013 so far! xxx

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