When I thought ‘Radiation’ I thought- quick, I thought- easy, I thought- cant be worse than chemo…..
I thought a lot of things and boy did I have NO idea what I was in for.
I was told it wouldn’t be that hard, 5 days of radiation lasting about 10 mins per day. Most of that time is spent lining up the 3 tattoos I got when I went in for my prep session. The actual radiation itself lasted 3-5 mins.
The machine gives you radiation from underneath you and then moves around your body and zaps you from the front. You would think something so minor would have the same minor implications.
Turns out I was pretty wrong about that!
What a rough ride its been.
After everything from a CT to a bone scan and then finally an MRI it turns out one of my tumors has crossed a muscle barrier and is now growing into the Psoas muscle. This muscle goes from your spine and wraps around down the lower abdomen on the right hand side near the hip bone. The muscle has nerves running through it and I was struggling with lower back and abdomen pain that meant I wasn’t able to do much besides increase the pain meds for a good couple of months.
While this was all being investigated my body settled down and I was back on a high riding my bike most days, getting to the gym and with spare energy to do the mundane tasks like have a tidy house and food in the fridge. I was feeling pretty good and was finally starting to feel like I was on top of things. For the first time since I had been first diagnosed.
When the MRI came back my oncologist suggested I was urgently referred to a radiation therapy oncologist to look at zapping the tumor in the hope that it would decrease in size and relieve some pressure and essentially pain from that area.
Because it is for palliative purposes they wanted to do it sooner, if the tumor was left the chances were in a couple of months it would have grown in size and radiation wouldn’t have the same impact on a larger tumor and would not be able to decrease the size of it enough to decrease the pain it was causing.
My radiation therapist was so optimistic. He seemed to think it would have little to no side effects and would just be a bit of a pain having to find a car park for the week but otherwise minimal fuss or impact would be had on my life. I asked if he would get it done given my position and he said he would.
I must admit I went into that appointment pretty amendment I would not be getting any more treatment but due to his easy breezy nature about the process I thought I would reap all the benefits and miss all the fallout.
Looking back I’m not sure if I should have stuck to my guns or not but it certainly has put me off anymore future treatment they might suggest.
The quality of my life for the last 3 and a bit weeks has SUCKED. I went for the biggest high and being able to do things again to the lowest low of suffering from major nausea, fatigue and high pain.
By the 3rd session I had hit a wall in a massive way. I went in sick as anything, barely able to walk from the hospital entrance down to radiation. I was really wondering why I was doing it and if stopping after 2 sessions would be best and just put the whole thing down to a bad idea.
But like we all seem to do, there was something that kept me going in even though it made me sick, even though I didn’t want too, even though I’m still not even sure it was worth it or the right thing to do.
I completed it.
As you do.
It was such a different experience from the hustle and bustle of nurses and patients in the chemo ward. Here you scanned a card, sat in a waiting room, had your named called out over a loud speaker, went and sat outside your treatment room, waited for the RT’s to take you in and make sure you were in line to the exact millimeter of the tattoos and then you’re left in the room for a few minutes before hopping off the machine and heading home.
The chemo day ward is full of people, nurses, doctors, patients, support people, more staff.
An incredibly stark contrast to radiation with its lack of people and high levels of technology and machinery. I think in regards to treatment radiation its a damn side more lonely than going through chemo.
Don’t get me wrong chemo is awful but there is a kind of united front, everyone there is doing it together and we are getting through it together. Radiation is a much more solitary experience without other patients or people around there was little comradery, you went in, did your thing and left.
Last week fatigue hit me hard and I was sleeping through the night and through the day. Showering had become an extremely tough task and was the most I was able to accomplish.
After seeing my palliative oncologist I had bloods done, my poor bodies inflammation markers were through the roof which explained the pain, tenderness, fatigue and general all round floppiness.
I’ve been put on a high dose of steroids to try and decrease all that inflammation that’s floating around. I’m starting to feel a bit better and hopefully in another couple of days I’ll be even better than that! I think if I’d known how it would have effected me I definitely would have stood firm and not done the treatment at all. I guess that’s a message to everyone, you know whats best for your body, people and experts can recommend things but do whats right for you, stick to your guns and your gut.
Until next time