Recalling Radiation and radiation recall

Today is another Landmark Day – it is a year today since my last radiation treatment.  A whole year.  And it was not just the end of Rads, it was the end of what had been the triathlon from hell indeed.  The whole stretch of heavy treatment had started at the beginning of October 2009 with surgery and soon after, the first chemo.  What felt like minutes after the 8th chemo came the start of Radiation.  There was hardly any time to breathe as I trundled rapidly along the treatment process.

And then, finally I was locked in the Bunker for my final session of beeps and zaps, and then I was allowed out into the big wide world.  I could finally make plans to get back to the UK and see family and friends in 3D who had been holding my hand virtually all the way through.  After months of being on a loop between Bangkok and Yangon, staying away from crowded places, napping several times and day and counting the spaces between treatments I was suddenly FREE!

So here I am a year later.  Filled with a mix of emotions and looking and feeling like a different person.  I had not been expecting that strange “after the treatment” phase very helpfully discussed in Dr Peter Harvey’s article, and often called the “new normal”.  It was impossible to imagine that I might rebuild after the destructive yet life-preserving rounds of treatment.  But I have indeed re-built.  I have hair again, thank heavens, even if it is still the wrong colour.  I am much much stronger and fitter.  I have re-gained my independence.  Of course I live looking over my shoulder with Captain Paranoia feeding my fears, but that is part of the deal.

There are, however, the obvious reminders.  That scar of course.  Twang Arm.  My port.  Additionally, I had a rather unexpected and unwelcome reminder of radiation last month.  After I had my port flushed, as usual a sticky plaster was placed over the puncture mark.  As frequently happened, my skin became a bit irritated underneath the plaster and then when I removed it the folowing day, a layer of skin peeled off with it.  I was gifted a beautiful, elastoplast shaped wound to accompany my port scar.  A friend joked that I was aiming to remove my port by peeling it off layer by layer!  I might give it a try if it is less painful than the surgical way?

I have since learned that this tenderness and irritation could well be linked to what is euphemistically called “radiation recall” so that is something else to talk to Dr W about when I see him next.  It cleared up with careful treatment but my skin continues to be very sensitive thanks to the combination of surgery, radiation and chemo skin and the aggravation of a hot and humid climate. It is something else to keep an eye on and something else to remind me.

For today, though,  I am glad to be in such a different place.  I am happy to recall that last dose of radiation and everything it signified.  I am particularly thankful that this year my eyes are open to seeing so many things which I didn’t see last year.  I completely missed the jacaranda blooms which I love so much.  They must have been there, but out of my view in my sheltered routine to and from the hospital, keeping my head down because of the troubles in Bangkok.  So this year I have been blown away by the variety and splendour of so many different blooming and blossoming trees in so many different colours.   I am sharing this picture from my field trip of a week ago, and a glimpse of the amazing blossoms, signs and symbols of regrowth and regeneration that surround me, which I completely missed last year.