I want to weep, she thought. I want to be comforted. I’m so tired of being strong. I want to be foolish and frightened for once. Just for a small while, that’s all….a day…. an hour….. George RR Martin
The last posts I’ve written were about my artist in residency at Bundanon Trust so I thought I’d catch up on my disagreements with the The Bleep that is cancer. I got home a week ago last Monday and on the Tuesday I started Radiotherapy. I hadn’t had time to get worried about it which was fantastic. The residency gave me a bit of breathing space where I could just be me, not a cancer patient. It was the best thing that could have happened for me.
I pretty much knew what to expect when I started treatment, but you’re never really prepared, no matter how much you’re educated on it. It’s a very streamlined affair. I swipe myself in, change into my own robe, then sit and wait, usually for only a minute or two, before I get called in. When I’m in, I lay on a bed, they position me in exactly the same position every time thanks to a personally moulded beanbag kind of thing and 4 small tattoos that they did on me to line me up precisely. They then put a nose clip on to stop me breathing through my nose and a snorkel mouthpiece in which I have to breath into.
Sounds weird, but by breathing in deeply and holding it, you push your rib cage and therefore the breast further away from the heart, which reduces the chances of heart damage. It looks and probably sounds complicated but it’s pretty straight forward but it is intimidating, especially the first time. The staff however are so wonderful that they make it much easier. They are warm and welcoming which puts you at ease immediately.
The treatment itself from scanning in to walking out the door again takes about 15 minutes but the round trip is long. I live about an hour from the hospital so by the time I’ve driven down, found parking, had my treatment and driven home again, it’s about 2.5 hours daily. This happens 5 days a week for 4 weeks. Thankfully I get weekends free to rest.
They told me that fatigue was one of the side effects and to be honest, I didn’t really believe it. I have downplayed the effects of radiotherapy especially in comparison to chemotherapy which I don’t have to have. I think I downplayed it because I felt guilty about being lucky enough not to need chemo when others have to have both treatments. Yes, I assumed that I’d be tired from the travel but not from the therapy itself. I mean how can a few rays on the breast make you tired? I was a bit smug in assuming that I wouldn’t be feeling like that but I was wrong. Yesterday the fatigue hit and wow, it laid me out flat.
I’ve had a dear friend up for a few days and after I dropped her off at the station yesterday, I came home, sat down for just a few minutes and boom.. That’s when it hit.. I couldn’t get back up again and I had no energy to do a single thing. I couldn’t keep my eyes open, no matter what I did so I gave up and gave in to sleep. I slept the afternoon away on the couch. Then, I was in bed by 10pm as well which is so unlike me. My breast is also feeling the effects of 8 treatments now as well. It is becoming red and is rock hard. Sleeping last night was uncomfortable.
By Fridays (today) last week and this, I have wanted to have a tantrum and say no, I’m not doing this. I’m tired, I’m sick of driving and I just want to stay home in pyjamas and rest. I know I have to do it though, so soon I’ll get dressed and head back in. Thankfully all my appointments are early morning so I’m home before lunch then the day is my own.
I’ll be glad when it’s finished in another fortnight. But in the meantime, my youngest son turns 30 in 9 days and I can’t get down to share his big birthday with him. I hate that I can’t go but he lives 12 hours away by road which would be way too wearing and because his birthday falls during school holidays, airlines have upped all the prices making it financially unviable to fly.
I’ve gone from putting about $40 a month of petrol in my car to having to put roughly $60 a week in to do the trip daily for therapy. That is taking a financial toll that I hadn’t factored in so any extras like a trip to Victoria is out at the moment. I’m not going to complain though as I’m getting first class medical treatment for free. I am blessed and I don’t ever take that for granted. I’m also blessed in having kids that understand and love me.
I have no doubt that Stuart would want me to be there but when I spoke to him about it he said “Mum, I want you here for my 40th and 50th… Your health is more important. Don’t stress about it.” The other son drives me down every Monday and is dragging his bung knee into the car with me today to make sure I’m okay. He can’t drive as he has some damage to his knee but he can travel with me to make sure I am alert during the drive. I have my “daughter by choice” that has taken every Wednesday off work so she can drive me down to treatment that day. I have precious grandchildren who have no idea that I’m fighting the bleep. They only know that I’m their Gargie.
That is all worth more than gold. That is the reason I can find the strength to get through this bleep even though I’m tired of always having to be strong. THEY are the reason I will hold my tantrum in check and get up and head down for today’s treatment before heading home to rest. They are the reason I smile when I want to cry. They are the reason I breathe. I am blessed.
Happy Resting… Livvy xxx