Part 12: Radiotherapy – Star Trek experience

Now I am in the middle of radiotherapy – not quite literally, but almost. So, on 27 January, I can report that my energy levels are right where they were before I started chemo (and I am quite high energy – so maybe there are some who got to like the toned down version?)

One month after the end of chemo I marked that milestone with going for a run. Not a big mega run, but I started an app “couch to 5k” which allows you to slowly build up over 9 weeks. I have now done 2 of the 3 runs of the first week and it has felt amazing to get that endorphin rush from a cardio workout. I have made several promises to be sensible. I had a full hip replacement in May, so that is more my concern than my general fitness, which will come back if I follow this gradual program (rather than my normal approach to just go and run for 30 minutes and feel sick and pull a muscle!)

Back to radiotherapy… So, as several people reported, it is nothing at all like chemo in terms of the impact on your body. I am interested to see if any studies look at the impact of being told you may be tired. I think that could be enough to make you tired? So far, I have made sure I get a lot of sleep and I have felt able to work normally. However, as you have read, I have also ensured that I have got outside and exercised to counter any potential tiredness as far as possible. I do feel that something is happening to my left boob… there is some mild pain, but really nothing to stop me sleeping, working and cracking on. It may be later this week that I feel the effect in terms of sunburn-like symptoms on the skin.

The experience of radiotherapy is a bit like going into a Star Trek set – not the full CT scan or MRI experience, but that kind of machine. You can only tell when the radiation is zapping you by the noise – you don’t see anything happening on the machine and nor do you feel anything at the time. The staff are always so pleasant, so overall I find it a good experience.

The challenge is the logistics of managing a full calendar and then dashing to the appointment (in the snow often)… I actually enjoy the ten minutes of treatment where you can’t speak to anyone or check email and you have to concentrate on your breathing to make sure you rib cage is open so the radiation doesn’t hit your heart or lungs. A bit like meditation. And the logistics challenge is all my doing because it’s my choice to be fully back at work.

I also have got used to my hair situation – current status: light fuzz and a bit of proper ‘stubble’ in patches and one eyelash (lower right lid)… I can feel that something is happening and just have to be patient (hmmm not my strength). I figure that perhaps by my birthday in June I may have a bit of a ‘haircut’, but should at least have hair. So, in summary, I feel absolutely amazing. It is such a joy to respond positively when asked how I am. Waking up feeling well and knowing that this will continue is such an incredible feeling. There’s nowhere to go to celebrate with continued Covid19 restrictions, but it feels like a celebration to have a normal weekend day going for a walk with a friend, having a video call, watching a film, reading the papers, trying out new recipes and, and, and!

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