Monday, January 23, 2012

Let the radiation begin.

It is a bleak and miserable day here today, which matches my mood perfectly. I had my first radiation treatment yesterday and whilst it wasn't as bad as the breast, it is going to be much more difficult than I thought. Before the treatment started, I met with a radiation nurse who explained the treatment in detail and once again went through the side effects I could expect. Last time I stopped listening when I was told my hair would grow back 'patchy at best', so this time I listened until the end - but I wish I hadn't. Apart from the baldness, I can expect the following to happen:
  • headache (due to brain swelling)
  • nausea and vomiting
  • exhaustion
  • balance issues and dizziness
  • personality and mood changes (so if I am cranky when you call - it's not my fault!)
  • scalp to become red and sensitive
  • scalp to peel, blister and weep
  • loss of memory and concentration (similar to chemo-brain - which last time caused me to forget which country I was in at the time).
Some of these side effects will be with me for 3-6 months after treatment is finished. The affects of radiation are accumulative, so the more you have, the worse you feel. This is not good considering I got home from treatment yesterday and felt exhausted, sick and had a headache. I think the next three weeks are going to go very, very, very slowly.

The radiation treatment itself isn't too bad, but I am not a fan of the mask. The mask, which they moulded a few weeks ago, is put over my face and affixed to the table. The mask is quite firm and you can't really open your eyes as it is squeezing down on your face. It actually reminds me of the scene in 'Girl with the Dragon Tattoo', where Mikael is in Martin's cellar, hanging off a hook with the plastic bag over his face - obviously minus the hook and the creepy, freaky, sexually depraved serial killer. For the twenty minutes I am lying there I try to keep my eyes closed and think of a happy place, but this is quite difficult when you have two people who are sticking things on your face and talking over your head; which interrupt my visions of sitting on a beach with a cocktail in hand.

I am not sure why, but I am finding this treatment more difficult to come to terms with than the last radiation. Maybe it was because I was initially relieved to hear that it was 'just' radiation and thought I could sail through it. I am scared about what could happen to my brain. When I had scans in December, they could tell that I had had radiation treatment to my breast as there was a difference between the right and left side. My radiation treatment finished 14 months ago and the skin and muscle still haven't recovered - how long will it take for my brain to recover? The brain is the engine room of the body - which means it can affect everything. I know that I am pretty tough, but nobody can tell you the extent to which I will be affected and recover. It is the unknown factor that scares me. I suppose if my personality changes, I lose half my IQ points, my memory is shot - I can always run for Prime Minister!


  1. You've got my vote. Panders for prime minister!!!! Sending you heaps of love & fortitude my beautiful friend Xx

  2. My vote too!! Start weekly chemo next week for 12 weeks then on to radiotherapy again, will have both boobs full of radiation then!! Keep up the blogs, hope we can catch up while we are in Brisbane. XX Jean