The radiation treatment may have ended but the effects soldier on to a ‘high’ point a little while afterwards which, for me, includes a small but critically located skin loss. Still, it’s good not to have to make the daily trek to the hospital and great to have the end marked with family members bearing flowers.
This is the week that was and by way of announcement, it’s not appropriate behaviour to grab, scratch or utter curse words when the treated area decides to prickle, stab or itch when you’re out in public.
That said, it’s been seven days of putting some new practices into action. Some of these are easier than others to achieve.
Alcohol and coffee are on the avoid list. I cannot bring myself to totally give up a morning cup of coffee or red wine. So the word ‘avoid’ becomes ‘limit’ on my list. This week that meant reduced strength coffee and two small glasses of wine over the week adding up to five alcohol free days.
Easier asks are:
- avoiding red meat.
- consuming no sugar except when it comes in fruit
- eating smaller portion meals
- oats for breakfast
- vegetables, vegetables, vegetables with broccoli as the hero
- exercise that matches capacity – no matter how small each day
- juicing (with pulp included) as a lunch option
- water, water, water
So far so good with the exception of a lemon tart. I’m feeling better for the change already and hopeful that all of the above becomes habit-forming sooner than later. A lot depends on it!
Tuesday 22 July 12.50 pm. That’s the date and time stamp for the last scheduled radiation zap. The team of radiotherapists were and are amazing even if they didn’t pick up on my request for cake to mark the occasion.
As an event marker, I had suggested to Himself that we have lunch at Chop Chop Changs. He had greater plans afoot which included packing a bag for an overnight stay in the city.
So it was. Food, new books from Avid Reader, a film and more food. These images will remind me of a quiet celebration of the end of one stage and the beginning of another.
As an aside, you’ve got to love a cinema that offers wine with your film AND volume options. It’s the little things.
As I drove into the hospital precinct last night, I could hear a flapping sound. The stretch up the hill and around the corner landed me directly opposite the Radiation Oncology building which was as far as I was prepared to drive with a flat tyre. The car park was several wheel rotations too far to be safe. I pulled up near the short term passenger pick up area and stopped in a no stopping zone.
In the minutes I had to spare before my zap session, I made a phone call home and wrote a note for the windscreen to ensure at least that the car wasn’t towed in my absence. I may have been flapping a little myself as I walked into the building for the first of four targeted booster hits.
By the time I emerged, the roadside assistance had been arranged. I had an estimated 40 minute wait ahead of me.
At the moment, I’m not very steady on my feet if I stand unsupported for too long. So I sat myself on the utility box on the footpath and watched people on their way to visit newborn babies. I listened in on snippets of phone conversations as visitors on their way home reported fractures and post-surgery conditions to friends and loved ones.
I had conversations with the two parking inspectors who eyed off my car as an income generator until I skilfully played two cards – cancer patient AND a flat tyre. I watched other infringers without cards of any sort take their medicine as they returned to their vehicles.
The roadside assistance man reminisced as he worked on the tyre. Fourteen years ago when he first arrived in Australia he worked as a cleaner in the hospital so he could learn English on the job.
I am so grateful that I was right where I needed to be when the tyre expired and grateful for people who do their jobs well and with compassion. Not least I’m grateful that my right hand man at the end of the telephone at home managed the rescue logistics to ensure that my flapping response was short-lived.
Peripheral neuropathy can be one of the side effects of chemotherapy. I learned recently that just because the chemo is behind you it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve dodged all the bullets.
For the past two or three weeks, I’ve had little or no sensation in the tips of my fingers and thumbs. So far the impacts of this have been limited to a reduced ability to turn book pages and the odd late and loud response to hot surfaces while cooking. I’ve put this gem on the list called “Let’s hope it goes away one day”.
Meanwhile the daily zap impacts have begun to accumulate with mild to medium sunburn like sensations and sensitivities. Once more in the round of treatment, this product has become my friend. After this afternoon’s zap, it’s 15 down and 5 to go.
Just as the lorikeets are turning up every day in our garden, I’m plugging on with the radiation sessions. Yesterday at the half-way point, I had a consultation with the doctor.
“You are tolerating the treatment well”, she concluded. To clarify, she was talking about my skin not my attitude. On most days it applies to that definition too.
The appointments so far this week have gone off routine a little. On Monday, I saw a physiotherapist who checked my scars then asked me how I was going with my exercise plan. I looked her straight in the eye as I responded to her questions. I did.
As the physio appointment and the radiation session were an hour apart, I sat in the waiting room for longer than usual. There’s plenty to amuse those who sit and wait including magazines, puzzle books, jigsaw puzzles, a television and a kitchen where you can help yourself to juice, tea or coffee.
It was apparently gentlemen’s day and a few of the older fellows were finding common ground in their conversations. Two men with loud, resonant and good-humoured voices were comparing treatment and side-effect notes. I have to thank them for providing me and everyone else in the room with a comprehensive synthesis of prostate cancer and its impacts. I may never have known what I do now if not for their generous sharing of the minute details.
Yesterday I needed to assume the position for longer than usual as the marker pens were put to work again in preparation for the final four booster zaps which start at the end of next week. Apparently the CT scan in the planning phase revealed the need for a slight adjustment to the target spot.
I am a canvas strewn with black and green lines. Ommmmmmmm.
The last three days have felt almost normal. I felt so well on Tuesday that I drove myself to the radiation session.
Yesterday I woke up motivated to get cooking. The nocturnal sessions are a bit tricky to work around dinner time. My self-appointed mission was to pre-prepare some evening sustenance.
I spent several hours in the kitchen creating a beef lasagne and a rhubarb and apple crumble.
Three bags of bargain-priced mushrooms needed attention to save them from unnecessary composting. Mr Google showed me how to dry them in a slow oven. It took a few hours but the warmth generated in the kitchen helped heat the room on a cold day.
In a week or so, the effects of the daily zaps will be producing some level of discomfort. So when motivation and energy align, there’s nothing for it but to grab and savour those moments.
Ordinary is the new happy.
Daily radiation started on Wednesday last week. It wasn’t that much fun to include this as one of my birthday activities. On the other hand, this treatment’s very availability is a gift in itself.
We have to travel further afield to another hospital for the radiation. There they are juggling 140 patients per day over four machines. As such, apart from informing staff a week ahead of times you may be unavailable each day, there’s not much flexibility. It can be up to a two hour return trip including the session and already it’s a tad tedious.
There are puzzle books, magazines and tea making facilities in the waiting room. Our daughter noticed someone working on a very large, nearly completed, jigsaw puzzle. “They’ve been here a long time”, she quipped.
As you can see from the schedule, it’s been mostly nightly rather than ‘daily’ radiation thus far. For the later appointments, we have to buzz to enter the building.
I am apparently very good at getting into position for the zaps, even as a beginner. I had to confess to the radiographers that lying down features high on the list in my skill set.
Only 17 more zaps to go. That’s seventeen times to don the stylish blue paper gown. Seventeen times to be the canvas for a coloured marker. Seventeen times to watch green laser lights line me up. Seventeen times for the radiographers to disappear and leave me alone in the room as bell sounds signify the start. Seventeen more opportunities to rip the paper gown which is supposed to last me the duration.
There is less than a month to go before regular visits to the hospital become past tense. I guess that means that future relax is what’s ahead, right?