17 December 2008

My cancer diary – part 6

Two months after hearing she has cancer, Lynn tells us about starting on chemo and going for her first dose of radiation therapy.

Two months after hearing she has cancer, Lynn tells us about starting on chemo and going for her first dose of radiation therapy. (Click here for her previous message.)

Hi there,

Well, we’re into week 1 of treatments and so far so good!

After much humming and ho-ing about whether to start my chemo tabs on Sunday night or Monday morning, we finally decided to start last week Sunday.

I say “we” as, of course, Andre had to be part of the decision considering that he was the one that may have been thrown up on if I had a bad reaction to the tabs. We were weighing up the pros and cons of taking the tabs at night and sleeping through any horrible side effects (or potentially not sleeping and having the side effects), or rather waiting to take the tabs in the morning.

The oncology nurse told me that if I had a bad reaction I wouldn’t have to stay on the night schedule for the whole week – I could switch to a morning routine immediately, if necessary, so we decided to do the night routine.

I got everything ready - I read the instructions, I took the anti-nausea tab half an hour after I’d eaten, waited another half an hour, took my two (very expensive) chemo tabs and then… fell fast asleep on the couch while watching the Sunday night movie! Nothing unusual there. And then went to bed when the movie was finished… and still nothing. A real non-event actually. YAY! Same thing the whole week.

Starting radiation
On Tuesday I went for my first radiation on the three ugly sisters.

We had an appointment with Doc Wilson beforehand who showed us the CT scan of my chest and the plot and plan for the radiation.

The area where the three ugly sisters are (and where they’re radiating) is just where my gorgeous (now more ample than normal) cleavage is and a little bit up – about 5 cm x 3 cm, but they’ve extended the radiation area a bit to allow for a margin of error (and my growing size!) when radiating.

They put me on this table contraption with lots of comfy spongy things for my feet and my legs, and they marked me up, using these teeny tiny little tattoo markers they made when they did the CT scan week before - as reference points.

So, I finally have a tattoo (three in fact), but they really are like tiny pin pricks so don’t have a heart attack, mom! Then they rolled me and twisted me until I was “just right” and did the radiation thing.

I’m not entirely sure what happens as I had my eyes closed the whole time, not because I was scared, just really comfy and thought I could catch a quick napster! Apparently there are cameras in the room so they can see that you’re okay - not sure if there are speakers in there to hear if you snore!

Anyway, just heard some whirring sounds and then it was over.

The strangest part was them telling me that I was not allowed to wash my lovely blue chest marks off, and not to put any lotions or potions over the radiated area, front or back, as it might interfere with the radiation.

The only thing I am allowed to use, nay, encouraged to use, is Maizena. “Maizena” I said, “as in cornflower? The stuff you cook with?” and yes, this is apparently true. Not exactly sure what it is about Maizena that makes this the talcum powder de jour for radiation, but there you have it. So, between my sunflower oil face mask and my Maizena chest sprinkle I’ve decided that I’m going to be one saucy bird by the end of this experience!

Like being punched in the chest
I must admit to feeling like I’d been punched in the chest after the first radiation, but the radiologists thought it unlikely that I’d feel such a physical effect – particularly not on the first treatment – and I felt really whacked about an hour or so later and was very grateful to be home and be able to have a sleep.

Again the radiologists think it is more likely the effects of the chemo rather than the radiation that is making me feel so tired, but perhaps it’s a combination of both.

I’ve now completed my first (of six) courses of chemo (well the 5 days on part and now I have three weeks off) and I’ve finished 4 of 10 radiation treatments.

I’m definitely feeling a little whacked and don’t have as much energy as normal so I’m trying to pace my days a little better.

I’ve been warned that these next three “off” weeks I might experience some of the other chemo side effects like the drop in my immune system (picking up everything going – which is maybe why I’m feeling so tired as my cells are racing around trying to fight all sorts of other little buggers they don’t normally have a problem with) and also a dryness of the mucous membranes (one of the places where cells rapidly divide so they are affected by the chemo) which I’ve experienced and it’s really weird. Feels like I’ve been sucking on a lemon and my cheeks should have contracted in - if only this was true! I still look like Moonface in the Faraway Tree!

On the head front
On the head front, the proton thing is definitely not going to be happening. This Friday I’m going for another MRI and head CT so that they can get an update on the remaining brain tumour, T1 (it’s been two months since we first got acquainted, can you believe?). I’ll have a new mask made for the different type of photon radiation therapy - stereotactic radiosurgery is the official name.

They will then plot and plan the head radiation. Prof Vinemann says I’ll probably need 6 to 8 radiation treatments, but more about that next time.

Doing well
Overall we’re all doing well. The heat in Cape Town on Saturday was a bit of a killer because I’m sure I balloon even more, but at least we’ve had a cooler, overcast and rainy day today.

Andre and the girls are doing great and the girls have been understanding, particularly when I’ve needed to rest. We’ve had great support from the school moms who are cooking us dinner on a couple of the “busy” nights each week which is proving to be a huge help - not to mention giving me the opportunity to meet some of the mom’s I didn’t really know that well.

My mom has been amazing, keeping everything together, but please keep her in your prayers as she has been our rock and support for so long and needs support and prayer to keep going too.

Thanks for all your support, prayers and news… and of course keep them coming!

Lots of love

(Lynn Ferreira, 10 February, 2008)

Click here to read Lynn's next message.

Read more:
My cancer diary - part 1
My cancer diary - part 2
My cancer diary - part 3
My cancer diary - part 4
My cancer diary - part 5
My cancer diary - part 6
My cancer diary - part 7
My cancer diary - part 8
My cancer diary - part 9
My cancer diary - part 10
My cancer diary - part 11
My cancer diary - part 12
My cancer diary - part 13
My cancer diary - part 14
My cancer diary - part 15

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