Last chemo in sight!

October 16, 2010

Finally……my last chemo is scheduled for Monday – albeit 3 weeks later than on the original schedule. It looked a bit touch and go for a moment. My white blood cell count was really low yesterday and the Doctor hummed and ha’d for a while before he decided that we should go ahead on Monday. I could have kissed him when he said yes – I would have been devastated if the last one had been postponed. Of course now I am totally paranoid – last time we went ahead despite a low count I ended up in hospital! But I have everything crossed……

Not that I am dreading Monday’s chemo any less than usual. The daughter of one of my Mum’s friends is an oncology nurse and she likened chemo to a boxer who gets knocked over and every time he gets to his feet gets knocked over again, and each time it takes him longer to get up again. That is such a great description of what it is like! So I am not at all looking forward to getting knocked to the ground on Monday, but I AM looking forward to being able to gradually get back on my feet without having to anticipate a new knockout in 14 days……

Of course I am not off the hook just yet. I get a few weeks to pull myself together and then I start radiotherapy on 15 November. I have to be zapped 17 times (I wonder how on earth they come up with such a bizarre number!) – every day Monday to Friday. I’ve started to be a little apprehensive about the radiotherapy now that it is approaching. The alarm bells started ringing when I was summonsed to an appointment with a dietician. Now, chemo has given me real problems with eating, but no one has suggested that I needed to talk to a dietician about it – so how much worse can it really get????? The issue is that, like chemo, radiotherapy doesn’t only kill the nasties, but also the good cells and since I am going to have my neck/throat area zapped I most likely am going to have difficulties with swallowing for a while. But I’ve been eating baby food for a while because of my dry mouth so I guess I just need to stick to the soft stuff for a while longer (and just hope it is sorted before my Christmas Dinner!!!!), not to mention enjoy that I have a diet sheet that suggests cake as an appropriate afternoon snack! A lot of people also report being very tired during radiotherapy. I don’t really understand why this is, but my fellow Hodgkins Blogger Colin, who has been an inspiration to me, reports that while he managed to keep on running through chemo he had to stop during radiotherapy – EEK – that has me worried!!!!

By my calculations the radiotherapy should be finished by 7 December (though I no longer expect anything to go according to plan). Then I will have another scan and a couple of weeks later see the Doctor for the results…….

I don’t know about you, but I know what I’m wishing for for Christmas!


One Response to “Last chemo in sight!”

  1. Hi Kirsten.
    I hope by the time you read this, you’ll have completed your FINAL chemotherapy session (Hooray!)and that you can put your feet up for a bit and rest. I know radiotherapy is on the horizon, but you’ve got a bit of breather just now, so enjoy it.

    Radiotherapy as a process is actually really straightforward and much easier to endure than chemo. You just turn up, get “strapped down” (they make a partial body mould for you ahead of it and use this to hold you firmly in place for the treatment – it’s to make sure that they target the exact treatment area consistently every time), get zapped and off you go! As long as they are running their schedule smoothly, you may find you’re at the unit for no more than maybe 20-30 minutes each day.

    Over the course of treatment, your skin will start to redden – essentially you’re getting extreme sunburn, so make sure they supply you with plenty of aqueous cream and apply it liberally 3, 4, 5 or more times a day. Believe me, it really does help the skin stay moist and heal.

    Also, because the treatment you’ll be having is on your neck, inevitably part of your face is treated too, and this means that your mouth may, over time, get a little sore. There is a risk of some blistering on your tongue, but again, the radiology team can supply mouth washes to help with this. Ask them about what else you can use – but don’t try something without checking it with them first, as some mouth washes or gels contain elements that might inflame rather than soothe in these circumstances.

    My own experience was that I developed some blisters in my mouth towards the end of treatment (15 sessions) and though it was uncomfortable, it wasn’t unbearable, and fortunately, it didn’t effect what I could or couldn’t eat. The mouth washes did help too. What was interesting was that after treatment ended, I began experiencing a salty taste on my tongue that would occur intermittently and lasted for a couple of weeks, but this is a side effect of the radiotherapy, I believe, because it had effected my taste buds briefly. Odd, but bearable.

    After treatment ended, my skin continued to feel hot – essentially, I continued cooking, is how I describe it – for 2 – 3 more weeks, but plenty of cream was applied and it all eased off so that now, it is all back to normal, apart from one side of my neck looking slightly red compared to the other – I’m a redhead, so the sunburn effect was maybe worse for me than most.

    I guess the message, Kirsten, is that this is another hoop to be jumped through, but it is much less harsh in its application than is the chemo, but the weariness that it creates is a bit frustrating, as you do feel that you should be getting better at this stage – and really you are, because this treatment is killing off any last remaining nasties, or at least that is the intention. My energy levels are back now, and I am running again, but I could do more … I’ve just found it hard to get work going again (I work for myself) and get running again, so it is really a case of me getting my priorities sorted again … and running is back on the agenda now, as I aim to be managing 10 mile runs by Christmas. All that will come your way too, but in the meantime, go with the treatment and continue to listen to your body: don’t push yourself too much, okay?

    All the best with the remainder of your treamtent and thanks so much for the plug in your post – I’m honoured that you’ve found my efforts helped.
    Take care.
    Colin @365er

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