Put our heads down and power through

Now that chemo’s over and Andrea’s nearly completed her full recovery cycle (which means she’s about a week away from being able to be out in public without an elevated risk to her health), we can start thinking about the next stage of her cancer treatment… radiation.

We love Andrea’s radio-oncologist. He’s an incredibly nice and patient man. We experienced a remarkable trait of his during our consult with him last week; even though he may know where we’re going with a particular thought or question, he waits until we’ve finished speaking before responding. He doesn’t jump to conclusions or feel it necessary to cut short our thoughts.

Andrea will have a CT scan in the next few weeks. During that appointment, a technician will mark the two locations at which the radiation treatment will be directed. This ensures the treatment is always directed at the same spot.

Beginning in May, Andrea will have radiation treatments each weekday for six weeks. Despite the frequency and duration, radiation seems much less scary to me than did chemo. There are no meds, and no physically- or emotionally-crippling side effects.

We’ve been told to expect Andrea to feel fatigued over the course of the treatment as her body works to regenerate cells that are being killed off each day (just as it got the regeneration process underway from the previous round). We’ve also been told to expect that Andrea will present sunburn-like skin irritations and discolouration beginning in the treatment area around week four of the program.

After she powers through radiation, Andrea will begin hormone therapy. Given what we’ve been through, that’s not as far off in the future as it sounds.

  • Be aware that radiation can still be pretty heavy-duty. I think it was worse for me because it was in my first course of treatment before my major tumours were removed, I had chemo at the same time (oh yeah), and my lesions were in my lower bowels, which made everything entertaining in all sorts of ways I'd rather not describe.

    But over time, the radiation does take its toll. Like chemo, it's intensive punishment for your body, and it accumulates day after day, and the fatigue and perhaps pain can be substantial. Be prepared for it to be no walk in the park. And if it's substantially better than that, then you can be pleasantly surprised!

  • Thanks, Derek .

    As usual, we'll project and intend for the best and try to prepare for the worst.

    I think the difference for us going in to radiation is that going into treatment back in October, we had a lifetime of accumulated horror stories about chemo already scaring us. Added to that were all the first hand accounts on the web and elsewhere, plus our medical-oncologist's huge long list of extremely scary,devastating predictions. So a big part of the chemo (the 2 month wait and the 4 months of actual chemo) was fear.

    Our radio-oncologist warned us about the mounting fatigue, the sunburn pain (lasting 2-4 weeks after the 6 week program), as well as the permanent lung damage, the permanent rib damage or breakage risk, the risk of permanent lymphedema, long term cancer-causing effects of the radiation. I don't look forward to all that, but without the huge fear I had of chemo — all the way through — I guess, radiation still seems less daunting than chemo.

    As always, we're hoping for a swift, smooth, completely successful and permanent recovery and that hope includes hopes for gliding smoothly through radiation and hormone therapy (which scares me much more than radiation).

    Sending you healing vibes daily,

  • I perused our friend and neighbour Laurie Kingston's blog http://notjustaboutcancer.blogspot.com/

    to see how she fared through radiation. I saw mentions of “a fatigue that defies description”, sore sunburned skin and general fed-up-with-treatment-ness.

    Laurie also presents a great summary of the single radiation session here:

  • Dear Andrea, what resolve !! “It is difficult, but I am going to prepare for it, and hope for the best.” I feel it difficult to express my feelings. All I can say is, “Everything should go on well. In as painless a way as possible.” Praying for the same.

  • Thank you so much, Sriram. We know your prayers and kind wishes are helping.

  • Bayla

    Hi I'm at school at lunch and I'm writing this because it's my computer time, good-bye

  • Wow! Bayla! What a surprise to receive this nice comment from you in the middle of the day. I hope your day is going fabulously well and that Q4 and GNO are a tonne of fun for you. I love you like crazy, my sweet!!

  • Tim Coyne

    Just wanted to tell you that I was thinking about you as you head into the next phase.

    Be well.


  • Thank you, Tim.

  • I continue to be surprised at the bizarre and off-the-wall side effects that cancer treatments (whether chemo, radiation, or immunotherapy/hormone therapy) can produce. I've had strange discolourations of my knuckles, dark deposits embedded in my fingernails, intense body-covering acne, dry flaky skin, and every possible combination of intestinal symptoms, and more. All aside from the stereotypical nausea, hair loss, and so on.

    What's funny about that is that now most other kinds of discomfort seem like a walk in the park. I had my first-ever cavity in my entire 40 years a few months back, and the procedure of getting the filling seemed like nothing in comparison. Anaesthetics, day surgery, dental work? Bring 'em on.

  • Derek,

    So sorry to hear about all the off-the-wall side effects. I hope they are fleeting. You look so healthy and comfortable in your photos, it's shocking to think of all you have and continue to endure. I beam you good vibes for a full recovery every day.

    As for enduring discomfort, what I've really noticed, so far, is how surprisingly little complaining I have done and, therefore, how little complaining Mark has done about his own ailments and discomforts.

    In my case, facing cancer, surgeries, scary tests and then chemo was so big and had so much potential for scary outcomes that most of the time I felt very, very lucky to be getting off so lightly in terms of discomfort and usually I kept an internal list of the number of ailments I was not-enjoying and updated Mark daily on the *length* of the list as it waxed and waned over each recovery period.

    Because I was restraining myself from complaining as best I could, Mark did the same (Mark's biggest problem since I found the lump has been sleepless nights, which triggers a whole slew of complainable results).

    It would sure be great if we could keep up the complaint-restraint once we're done with all this!

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