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

Radiotherapy: Week Three

IMG_431313 down, 20 to go…

Another week of radiotherapy went by and I still haven’t really started feeling the effects. At some point soon, one of my boobs should go all red and sunburnt-looking while the other one remains its usual pinky self, but at the moment they’re both looking identical (except for the shark-bite scar from my surgery on the left one). I’m not feeling any pain or irritation and I don’t think the fatigue has really set in yet either. I’m still tired from the chemo and I can’t manage a lot of physical activity, but I haven’t got to the point where I need to sleep in the afternoons yet.

It’s almost two months since the final chemo and my hair still isn’t making much progress. As you can see in the photo above, there’s just a bit of fluff growing on the sides (and back) of my head, but it’s still really bald on top. I’m thinking I’ll have to start some sort of new trend for shaving a skunk-like panel into the middle of one’s head and just keeping the hair at the sides – anyone fancy joining me in that?!

Seriously though, there is no sign of any new eyebrows or eyelashes growing and it’s starting to get me down a bit. I don’t think I ever realised when I first lost my hair that it would be almost a year before I had enough hair again to grow a pixie, but that’s exactly what it’s going to be. So it’s a good job I invested in some quality wigs, as they are finally getting worn on a regular basis with me going to work every day. My target is to go to work wigless in a month’s time, though.

IMG_4272

I’ve been conducting a silent and unofficial poll of my wigs at work this week and it seems the people’s firm favourite is ‘Joana‘ (pictured right) – funnily enough, the wig I’ve worn the least in all my five months of baldheadedness. So I got glammed up with Joana for my first proper big night out since the pre-cancer days last night and I actually almost felt I got a little bit of my confidence back.

Towards the final strait of cancer treatment, people tend to say “Oh, you’re almost finished now!” “You’re on the final strait!” “You’re back to normal now” etc etc. But it’s actually a great big myth. This stage of treatment (I won’t call it the ‘final’ stage, because my treatment will essentially go on for the rest of my life) has probably been the hardest for me. Even though I found chemotherapy infinitely more physically demanding and challenging than radiotherapy, I am finding this stage difficult for other reasons. My whole cancer treatment has been going on for so long now, it’s hard not to feel tired of it, and it’s particularly tough to see light at the end of the tunnel. The effect on my appearance is also at its greatest, but I’m no longer able to just wallow all day in the comfort of my own home and just be a cancer patient. Instead, I’m effectively living a normal life but I don’t look or feel normal, so it’s tough. Still, I know time will fly.

IMG_4228One of the silver linings of my week was being able to walk along the beach in Dublin to get to the hospital. It’s about a 50-minute walk from my work to St. Vincent’s and the views are beautiful, especially when the sun is setting, around 4:30pm. (Long winter…) I’m glad I took pictures early in the week when I did, because I’ve had to take taxis ever since Tuesday, when it started poured with torrential, sideways rain, hail and sleet and blew gailforce winds that nearly knocked me into the canal. Not exactly strolling weather.

IMG_4290Finally, I took the nutritionist‘s advice and bought an expensive juicer from UKjuicers.com. As you can see, it’s an intriguing contraption but I’ve used up all the vegetables and fruit in my flat and made the most amazing juices (apple, carrot and ginger being my current fave) in the past few days, so I think I’ll get plenty of use out of it. I’ve done pretty well increasing my fruit-and-veg intake in 2013 but my dairy-free diet is failing miserably at the moment. I haven’t given up hope, but somehow rice milk in my tea just isn’t cutting it. Still, one step at a time and I’ll get there in the end..

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10 thoughts on “Radiotherapy: Week Three

  1. annamccormick84 says:

    Hi Laura, just wanted to thank you again for taking the time to blog about this experience. My Mum starts her radiotherapy tomorrow and it’s nice to have an insight into how you’re feeling (physically and mentally) about this stage of treatment in the recovery process. I read a fascinating article, I think by a psychologist, about how many people talk about “getting back to normal” and he stressed for cancer patients, particularly post chemo or radiotherapy, this just isn’t what happens. Armed with that information and your wonderful blog I feel better equipped to help my mum in whatever way I can on her journey. Thus far it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster but I’m hoping over time it’ll become more of a train ride with the occasional bump! Sending you lots of love and positivity to get through this equally challenging time. Anna x

    • Hi Anna, thanks for your comment – it’s really great to know that my blog is helping in some way! I am sure it affects everyone differently, but I haven’t felt any physical effects of the radiotherapy yet – there is certainly nothing for your mum to be scared of as you don’t feel a thing and it only takes a few minutes each time…. you may even make friends in the waiting room! It’s more just an accumulation of the entire cancer journey that really builds up and starts getting to you at this stage. But hopefully with you for support she’ll be right as rain. I wish her good luck with the new treatment – make sure she gets lots of rest! Take care xx

  2. I have suggestions for regrowing eyebrows, eyelashes and hair. I took and still take Biotin capsules daily and I applied castor oil with a clean eyelash brush to my eyebrows and my budding eyelashes (after they reappeared). Just a light coating before going to bed. When the eyelashes were going stronger I wore a mascara that had castor oil in it. My eyelashes were never this good before chemo. I also took selenium tablets before chemo and never lost all of my hair. Of course, I had only six weeks of chemo and everyone’s dosing is different, so I can’t guarantee that selenium would stop everyone’s hair loss. I took it every day before chemo started and then stopped during the chemo weeks and then resumed it every day for a couple of months afterward. I don’t take it now that my hair is back. I hope this helps. Hang in there. You’ll be even more beautiful than you are now very soon!

  3. Apparently Yorkshire is leading the way for research into “cancer survivorship” something which is long overdue. I believe many survivors have to contend with post-traumatic stress symptoms. The fact that you recognise this and talk about it will go a long, long way towards helping you cope. You are brilliant, Laura. You always have been but somehow you’ve used this horrible experience to crystallise that brilliance.

  4. Hi Laura, I understand what you mean about your appearance, like you I’m minimally fuzzy with a panel on top, a couple of very stubby (= impossible to make look good) eyelashes and next to no eyebrows. Gel eyeliner has become my best friend! I’ve finished chemo but still on herceptin and look and feel like a cancer patient. I’m debating wigs or hats for work next month, part of me says “stuff it, I’ve been through so much why should it matter about looking normal” and again like you, part of me just wants my hair back in all the right places!
    You look very pretty in Joana, you have a beautiful smile, lovely eyes and excellent skin. You also have a strong spirit, a big heart and much love from all your supporters including me. This post chemo period is tough, its over but our medical journeys are ongoing. It takes time for all that we’ve been through and our new normality to sink in, we’ve been on the cancer conveyor belt and its slowing down but it hasn’t stopped. I don’t have an answer other than to be kind to yourself, give both your mind and body time to find some level ground (they will) and do something nice, just for you, everyday. Could be a walk, listening to your favourite song or buying some flowers – just to help keep your spirit buoyant and that lovely smile shining through.
    Ps, I’ve cut down on dairy by using Kara coconut milk, I find it more palatable than rice milk. When I really can’t do it, I opt for organic semi skimmed… My research suggests a small amount isn’t going to undo all the work I’ve done so far. Sending you much love, Tracy xx

    • Thanks Tracy! I wish I didn’t have to wear the wig as well – I don’t think I’d mind as much if I still had no hair at all, but it’s just I don’t think the patchiness looks very attractive and I can’t even see what it looks like from the back! But I think I’ll give myself a month and aim to go wigless from then on. Plus I think it’s too cold to go wigless in the office and/or outside at the moment!
      I think I was warned against coconut milk and I can’t imagine it being that nice in tea – I like the oat milk but it’s just a matter of getting the stuff outside of the home! I have been craving flat white coffees as well, so I figure I can just allow myself a treat…
      Hope you are doing well! Sending you much love too xx

  5. Adriana Tomalino says:

    Lauri, ocupá tu tiempo con cosas placenteras: leé, andá al cine a ver pelis, anotate en alguna actividad que te de placer….un curso de cocina? Así pasará todo más rápido y acompañada, sacando tiempo para pensar ó entristecerse. Un buen día te mirarás al espejo y estará todo en su lugar. Falta poco, besos y abrazos, Adri.

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