Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Radio 1

I've been for the first session of radiation to the Monster Boob today. My second hospital appointment of the day - the first being this morning to see the physio for another armpit massage.

The radiotherapy is being carried out at a different hospital to the rest of my treatment as there are only four or five radiotherapy suites in the West Midlands (I can't remember exactly - chemo brain again!).

This means instead of it being a 25 minute walk from my flat, I have to walk to a train station in the city centre and get the train through to the hospital. Every day for three weeks. Bit of a ball ache (or boob ache I guess you could say).

They give you a very fetching gown to wear which makes you feel a little bit like you belong in a downmarket massage parlour.... Here I am sporting said gown:

But first let me take a selfie.....

I look totally shattered due to being sleep deprived by menopause inducing drugs so apologies for that!

Anyway, they take you in to a room and you are faced with a machine that looks a bit like this:

I didn't have to chance to take a photo of the actual radiotherapy machine today, however I will try my best to get a portrait of the beast before my treatment is over.

The 'bed' in front of the machine looks like some sort of space age torture contraption, with 'stirrups' for your arms and head. If you've ever had a smear test - think that. Just for the other end of your body.

The whole process only took about 10 minutes but once again was wholly undignified -  having to lie there half naked with your arms above your head whilst two (very sweet) radiographers measure you up and talk numbers over you. However, my dignity upped and left a long time again - I think the final shreds of it slivered out of the room whilst in was i hospital after my surgery so that's by the by.

So far, the only side effect I've had is a warm boob but I've been told it will probably be next week after a few sessions when I start to experience tiredness and sore skin. 

As cancer treatment goes, this definitely beats having a boob cut off or poison injected in to my veins. However, I don't want to count my chickens just yet. Plenty of time for side effects! 

One down, fourteen to go ........

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Radio GaGa

Last week I had an appointment with an oncologist to discuss radiotherapy. It was one of three hospital appointments in one day - I'll go in to those in more detail a bit later....

All the way through my treatment I was told that I would need radiotherapy. However, when the results from my surgery came back I was told that it may not be necessary and that a discussion was needed as to whether it would be beneficial. To cut a long story short, the oncologist said there was definite benefit and that we should go ahead. He also assured me that the pain in my bum cheek was more than likely due to degenerative damage from chemotherapy and hormone treatment, rather than cancer and wouldn't send me for a bone scan dammit. Anyway....

After the decision to go ahead with radiotherapy was made last week, I found myself at a different hospital yesterday for a CT scan and marking up for the start of the treatment. It was my first time having a CT scan and I can only describe it as being inside a washing machine. Half naked. With your arms above your head. The scan is to find out where your heart and lungs are so that when they direct the radiotherapy waves at you they don't fry your insides. You kind of need those bits.

After that I received three 'tattoos' which were remarkably reminiscent of the kind of self marking that some of the kids did at school e.g. dipping their compass in ink and scratching their current amour's name in to their skin. These tattoos are only very tiny dots placed under the skin, but they were done in much the same manner - with a thick needle dipped in ink.

Radiotherapy is due to start on the 28th of April for three weeks. I'm hoping its going to give me super powers but as it is it will probably be more like fatigue, sore skin and a shriveled implant. 

Back to my day of hospital appointments. Spending the entire morning at hospital is not the most riveting of experiences. There's only so much swiping left on Tinder a girl can do.... Anyway, after I saw the oncologist I went to see my plastic surgeon. She agreed that we didn't need to fill the monster boob any more and the expansion was now finished. I asked about when the expander would be replaced by an implant that looked more like a boob than a football and also when they were could take away the other potentially deadly breast. I was told that it would be six months after radiotherapy at the minimum, preferably twelve months. The only time she would operate any sooner would be if she was forced to e.g. if radiotherapy started to make my scar split and the implant to come out. Delightful.

After my appointment with the plastic surgeon I was sent to have more photos of my boobs taken. My before and after surgery boob photos will be coming to a medical student text book near you sometime in the near future. Without my face luckily. However, somewhere between taking my bra off and putting it back on again I managed to lose the cleavage enhancing whatsit I use in the 'normal' side of my bra to fill it out as the monster boob is bigger and a lot more pert that my natural one and makes me look decidedly lopsided. No idea how I managed to do that but some lucky member of hospital staff will probably have come across what looks like an overgrown garden slug at some point over the last few days.

After the photos came an appointment with the physio about my dud arm. The node clearance means that I have nerve damage, numbness and considerable cording under my arm. Cording is basically when the lymph vessels become dry, scarred and shriveled and feel rather like guitar strings. After showing me some exercises to try and revive the nerves in my arm, he gave me an armpit massage. Yes, you read right. He massaged the cording under my arm, something that I have to do myself at home as well. It's comes to something when you need your armpit massaging instead of your back right?

So, an appointment with an oncologist, examination of the monster boob, tit photos, an armpit massage, CT scan and dodgy prison-like ink tattoos. Just an average week in the life of a young breast cancer patient!

Just Brow-sing

A little while ago, Debbie - who is married to one of my brother's friends - contacted me and offered to 'tattoo' my eyebrows - at no cost! When I say tattoo I mean what is called semi permanent make up. What with chemo and surgery, I wasn't able to take up her offer until recently. So a couple of weeks ago I went to Debbie's clinic in Doncaster, South Yorkshire to have my brows done.

I cannot recommend Debbie highly enough. She is absolutely lovely and incredibly skilled. The whole process took about three hours, which included about 45 minutes of drawing the brows on beforehand as Debbie does them freehand rather than using stencils. That coupled with her hair stroke technique results in a very natural effect. Debbie also spends time choosing the right colour for your skin tone and the right brow shape to suit your face. I went for a slightly thicker arch which gives a kind of face lift effect.

Here was the result a day or two after:

Debbie uses a two or three step approach. As she said to me, you can add colour but you can't take it away! Its better to be cautious with the colour than ending up with very bold brows that don't really fit your face. You could end up looking like this:

No one wants that.....

Debbie will be adding a little more colour to mine a few weeks once they have settled down.

Here is are my brows about a week or so later:

And here they are on my face in their full glory:

The process is carried out using a small needle and 'tattoo' gun and does smart a bit but compared to having chemo and losing a breast it's nothing more than a tickle!

For all my fellow chemo girls starting out, I would highly recommend having your brows done before you start if you can afford it. I toyed with the idea but didn't go ahead and now I really wish I had. Losing my eyebrows was almost worse than losing my hair. Never underestimate the difference that your eyebrows make to your face! Make sure you chose your clinician carefully however and that you are able to see examples of their work beforehand. If you can, I would highly recommend going to see Debbie!

Although my brows are growing back now they are still quite sparse almost four months after chemotherapy finished and I was still drawing them on. Now I no longer need to bother. I have lovely perfect brows with no effort and they are still there when my make up comes off! Debbie's gesture was so generous and has helped to increase my confidence in my appearance at a time when it was collapsed on the floor unconscious and I can't thank her enough.

More information about Debbie's clinic, treatment and prices can be found at www.thepermanentmakeup-clinic.co.uk