I have been so looking forward to having this weekend off from my Radiotherapy. Three days of travel, waiting my turn in the Linear Accelerator, stripping off from the waist up, laying on what feels like a mortuary slab and being moved about by various Radiographers to get all my dots lined up and the measurements all set to the correct places has been hard going. I have been fine with having my breasts exposed in the interests of their health so far, but yesterday I felt exposed and just a little bit violated. The Radiotherapy staff are brilliant, I have no complaint with them, it is the procedure they need to go through each time that I found stressful. I have a full five days of Radiotherapy to ‘look forward to’ in the coming week, this is the only full week for me as I have days off for Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year’s day, oh the joy!
For those of you with no experience of Radiotherapy for Breast Cancer I will do my best to explain. The Linear Accelerator room is cold, I strip off the top half of my clothes, climb up on to the platform, trying to get myself positioned centrally and with my shoulders in the right place. If I get it wrong the Radiotherapists ask me to shuffle about until I’m positioned correctly. Then it is time to line up my dots with the green lines which shine across my body. The Radiotherapists move my arms and torso about until the measurements match my treatment plan, they call out the measurements to each other, one moves me and the other reads the figures out, and then they both check again that they agree to the plan.
The Linear Accelerator is moved in to the first position and the measurements checked, it is then moved around to the second position and the measurements checked. When both Radiotherapists are satisfied, they leave the room and the treatment session begins.
I have approximately 30 seconds of treatment for both positions, as well as a short burst of targeted treatment where shutters move across the Collimator to reduce the beam area, again in both positions. The Collimator is a part of the Linear Accelerator device that narrows the beam of radiation waves. Not sure if that makes sense, but I can’t think of any other way to describe it.
Then the whole process is repeated for the other breast.
I will just have to grin and bear it, yesterday was the first time I have felt a lack of dignity in my treatment, I thought I was OK with it, but obviously not as much as I had believed.
Cross-sectional view of a woman receiving radiation to the breast area
A Middle radiation beam
B Side radiation beam
C Bright yellow: place where radiation is given to the breast
D Rib cage/chest wall
Image from: http://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/radiation/types/ext
Today I should have been writing Christmas cards but I can’t seem to raise any enthusiasm for the task. I usually enjoy Christmas preparations but not this year, it all feels like too much effort, I just don’t have the inclination or energy to spare.
This morning, Megan and I popped in to town as she needed to get some things for a Christmas Party this evening, I enjoyed being out of the house for a purpose other than going to hospital. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and the air was crisp, the perfect winter’s day.
The short excursion was enough, I had a nap after lunch. This afternoon I have done very little, I’m looking forward to watching Strictly this evening, love the dancing and the sparkly dresses.
Ray has been feeling bad about not being able to travel to Essex to see his Dad, He has been visiting his Dad every other weekend since his Mum died and wants to be there for him.
Today is a ‘down’ day, I’m not feeling particularly chirpy and Ray is not feeling well either. I knew from the information I have read that fatigue was possible during cancer treatment, I didn’t appreciate how much it was going to affect me. I had hoped that I would still be able to do things, maybe not my usual weekend walks with Shadow, but at least do some craft work and Christmas preparations.
I am frustrated that even the smallest task uses up my energy resources, going out twice in the same day or even for more than a couple of hours is enough to make me feel so tired that I just want to crawl in to bed and hibernate. Feeling this way leaches positivity, it is hard to be up-beat about this illness with such low energy levels. To be honest Ray being ill is not helping, at a time when I really need his support, and by this I mean practical and emotional. The first is the most vital thing for me, particularly help with driving, but as Ray is unable to drive for four weeks, I have no other option. Both of us are unable to carry anything heavy, so have to rely on Megan and Josh to help out, this too comes hard, we are used to being ‘the parents’ and even though they are now adults, being able to care for our family is what we do.
Ray and I are both independent people, more used to offering help to others than asking for help for ourselves, so needing help is a challenge for us both. We have both had plenty of offers of help from friends, and for this we are very grateful, but please understand that it is hard for us to accept, we have no wish to offend anyone, it is for us to learn that there are times when asking is what we must do.
What I really want for Christmas is a happy, fit and healthy Ray, knowing that Santa will be unable to deliver is heart-breaking, this situation is beyond our control, and I am beginning to feel that I am sinking under the stress of it all.