Monday, April 16, 2007
Before I started radiotherapy the side effects were all explained, but then I'd researched everything on the net anyway. One of the most surprising side effects was feeling "emotional". It seems to be from the tiredness, is very common and also a bit odd. I would set off in the car feeling alright, not miserable or anything, yet a song on the radio would have me bawling my house. Jo Wiley's "changing tracks" were the worst. Uncontrollable tears! For the last two or three weeks I wanted to cry as soon as I walked out of the oncology department doors, sometimes before I walked in and once, just before treatment. Luckily the radiographers expect this and were prepared with tissues and cuddles.
As side effects can continue for weeks or months after treatment (yes MONTHS) I'm quite pleased that the debilitating tiredness has been replaced by a more acceptable level.
Some days I wake up and want to stay in bed still, but usually by lunchtime I'm pottering about. Today feels like a duvet day. Think I overdid the gardening yesterday - planted out a load of herbs I bought on Saturday, which included lifting some patio slabs. Weeded the forest around the roses at the front and then came in to whip up some home made houmous which we then ate with some stir fried leeks, scallions and tomatoes and left over brown pesto rice. Yummy!
There's a massive bowl of houmous left in the fridge so guess what's for lunch today?
Getting back to the "emotional" thing, I had random acts of weepiness yesterday, just felt like crying for no reason whatsoever. I feel a bit the same today, but then I have been rereading the side effects of radiotherapy. Not terribly thrilled about the possibility of getting lymphoedema in my leg(s) after the surgeon whips out most of my nodes, including the ones that have been zapped! They take out a lot around the tumour then check which ones have cancer in them - I might get my staging revised one way or another. At the moment I'm Stage 3b due to suspect nodes. That's Dukes C.
Mostly at the moment I don't feel like I've got cancer, then wham it hits me like a ton of bricks. I know the worst time will be after treatment finishes. That's when there are no regular hospital appointments, just the rest of my life, however long that may be, to figure out. All the "offers of help" whether empty or not will disappear and I'll have to return to work, if I can. Depends on my level of ability after surgery and any nasty complications, (yes I know glass half empty, but lets look back at my history shall we? Rather be prepared thanks).
I live from one day to the next at the moment, there is so much I don't know, can't know and won't know for a long time I can't think any further ahead. I want a holiday, at least I think I do, but I actually like staying at home - I suppose it feels safe and I know I can go to bed whenever I want! I want a job nearer to home, preferably part time if I can manage it, but what? Who is going to risk employing me? I've got two years of menopausal symptoms (expected to be more severe as they're radiation induced) to look forward to. How is that going to be amongst people I don't know and who don't understand me? I think the best thing I can do right now is go and eat some Goji berry organic, vegan muesli - Gillian McKeith would love me right now! Except for my poo, she would NOT be impressed by that!
Here's some info on Lymphoedema! This is a risk to anyone with cancer particularly after radiotherapy.
The swelling is due to a build up of lymph fluid. This happens if the lymph nodes (or glands) in the groin or pelvic area have been removed during surgery or if they have become damaged by radiotherapy. Lymphoedema can occur a few weeks or several years after pelvic radiotherapy. It happens in up to 1 in 10 people (10%). The risk of it happening to you depends on the type of cancer you had, as well as any other treatments you had. Rarely, the trunk or genital area can become swollen.
The lymph nodes act as filters within the lymphatic system, helping to fight infection and disease. If the nodes have been removed or are damaged, the lymph fluid is unable to pass along the vessels and excess fluid can build up, causing swelling. The area affected by lymphoedema is also more prone to infection and if infection happens it can be difficult to get rid of it.
Lymphoedema can also occur if the cancer has come back and is blocking the lymph drainage channels.
If your leg is swollen because of lymphoedema it may become stiff, uncomfortable and awkward to move, making daily activities like dressing difficult. The skin may get tight and stretched. Once lymphoedema has occurred, it cannot be completely cured.
However, many things can be done to help reduce the swelling and discomfort.
After pelvic radiotherapy it is important to avoid infection, as this increases the risk of lymphoedema. It is important to avoid any cuts or grazes on your legs and to look after the skin by using moisturisers if the skin gets dry. Clean any cuts, grazes or wounds with antiseptic.
Some things may trigger lymphoedema, such as:
It is helpful to avoid these if possible. You can help to prevent lymphoedema by following a healthy lifestyle and exercising regularly. Walking (in well-fitting shoes) and swimming stimulate fluid to drain from the legs.
The earlier treatment is started, the more likely the lymphoedema can be controlled. So it is important to let your doctor know if you notice any swelling of your foot, leg, thigh, lower abdomen or genital area.
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