The clean up

It’s another sunny day in Bangkok following another night of powerful storms.  A power line outside our window crashed and flashed with a surge of electricity and sudden bursts of wind accompanied pelting monsoon rain.  The innocent blue skies and sunshine made it hard to believe that the storm had been so violent, but there was evidence that it had not all been a frightening dream.

The clean up in the city continues, people are moving back into the areas affected and work is resuming.  However, Central World is still smouldering and the damage from the trouble is all around.  It feels as if it will take a long time to heal and repair.

The clean up of my post radiation skin also continues.  The radiation borders were designated by marker pen covered with transparent medical tape.  At my last session, the staff began to remove the tape, but my tender skin squealed and attempted to peel off along with the tape – OUCH!!  We all agreed that it would be best if I took the tape off myself in my own time.  Over the past two days I have slowly, delicately and somewhat painfully managed to remove all the tape.  Unfortunately I have also removed some skin, but not caused any breaks in the skin that were not already there.  I have also managed to clean up some of the markings, but have to be very careful not to immerse the skin, scrub or use any soap that might hurt the skin.  Have you ever tried cleaning with those restrictions?  It is not easy and it takes time.  My poor tender post radiation skin feels as if it is still smouldering too! The radiation continues cooking me for another couple of weeks apparently!

It also feels as if it will take a long time to heal and repair.

Going for the burn!

This is not a reference to the extreme aerobic exercising trend in the 80s which saw burning muscles as an excercise goal!

Nor is it a reference to the situation in Bangkok, although there have been plenty of images of burning in the past few days.

Incidentally, the situation has in fact felt much less tense today, from our perspective.  The talk of curfew came and went, with the decision not to impose any curfew at the moment (thank you!).  Yesterday it felt as if there was a great deal of nervousness about the 3 pm deadline extended to the protesters to leave the protest site.  We needed to get some food shopping and headed to the supermarket just after lunchtime.  I was quite astounded at the numbers of people in the supermarket, and the amount of food they were buying!  There were long queues at the checkouts, where I have never seen more than 2-3 people in line before.  Fully laden shopping trolleys added to the queueing time.  It quickly became apparent that we are not at all good at panic buying!  We came out with pretty much what we had planned to get, such as bread, milk, fruit and mushroom paté!  Returning home with our pathetically small bag of shopping, we found the streets full as people were heading home.  The 3 pm deadline passed with no seemingly great movement on either side, some talk of talks and no real sign of any progress towards resolution.

No, the actual reference of the heading of this post is, as usual, to my constant companion – my treatment and how it is affecting me!

The burn of the radiation is really stinging and annoying my neck and clavicle area.  It feels as if I have been out in the sun with a very low cut top – as if that is likely these days, or any days!!  The surgery area is changing colour and the skin tight and extremely dry.

I saw Dr C this evening and he was happy with the burn so far!  I am also fairly happy with the burn so far – it is not (yet) as painful as I had feared.  I have 5 sessions left so I am really hoping that my skin will be able to get to the end of the treatment without breaking……….. but let’s see!

Jelly in the mould

It’s been a full couple of days.

Yesterday I had 3 hospital appointments, or 2 appointments and 1 treatment session to be precise.

I turned up at Counter 5 for my first appointment, in the morning.  My stomach was churning as I knew this one involved a blood test.  Blood tests involve needles.  Needles hurt supersensitive chemo skin.

Sure enough, I was directed towards the Lab and the row of seats at the blood letting counter.  When it was my turn, I gestured towards my still bruised right arm and asked as usual if they would be gentle with me.  I have to say, that the Lab staff are exceptionally good at these needle sticks.  Even if I said nothing, I am sure that they would still be very gentle.  The needle lady looked at my poor arm and its battered veins and set up a special blood drawing thing.  She even gave my arm a quick spray of numbing agent before she started her task.

After a wait for results, and a welcome cuppa, it was my turn to see Dr P for my overall check.  The blood had done well and showed that my body is slowly recovering from the onslaught of chemo.  Also importantly, it is recovering from the effects of the steroids which had pushed glucose levels up throughout the chemo.  Kidney and liver functions and cholesterol were also in pretty good shape considering everything,  Dr P was very happy with my general progress and noted my positive outlook and lifestyle changes I had made which she said were reflected in the test results.

So I came out of my appointment really smiling for once!

After a couple of hours, I was back at the hospital and waiting for my transfer to the Cancer Hospital for radiation and an appointment with Dr C, the radiation consultant.

The treatment went smoothly and quickly as usual.  Zap another one finished. and I headed upstairs for the final appointment of the day.

I did not have to wait long before I was called to see Dr C.  He seemed happy with the progress of the radiation and had a look at the blood test results I had brought with me.  He said there was no need for further blood tests – my encouragement and mention of the bruised arm perhaps influenced him 😉 .

He also explained to me that there would be a slight change to the procedure starting from today.  A gel would be applied to the area having radiation from now on.  It did not dawn on me to ask why or anything else about it.  I seem to have this “yeah, whatever” approach to what has to be done.  I have thousands of questions about the treatments, effects, prognosis and procedures, but never seem to have a why question.  Just do what needs to be done.

So when I turned up today for my treatment, the staff told me I would be having this Gel thing applied to the radiation area.  I asked what this was for.  Apparently, it draws the radiation skin-wards so that the surface of the skin area is targeted in the last 10 sessions.  This is when the skin really starts to colour and darken.  My skin is already pretty dry and irritated so I am not looking forward to the sunburn which is surely coming my way.

As I am always flat on my back, pressed into my mould and completely immobile I had no idea what this Gel stuff was like or how it was being applied.  I tried to catch a glimpse of it in the reflection of the big machine above me but could not really see anything.  There were a couple of test beeps to check the angle and before long I was back in the daily routine.  Beep, beep, whirr, click………..

Once the zapping was over, the staff came back to prise me from my mould and release me for the day.  Before I sat up, they asked me if I wanted to see the Gel as they removed it.  It was not quite what I expected.  It was a bit like a computer mouse mat (but larger) and made of a clear kind of gel, in a semi solid state.  It was peeled off the radiation area and taken away, probably for cleaning and preparing for the next jelly session.

Now that today’s session is complete, I have moved into single digits with 9 sessions left.  They will all be jelly sessions and I hope that my skin stands up to the concentrated rays.

It’s clear that the cooking course is moving forward nicely, and I am clearly moving towards the dessert stage.  So, when the final jelly comes out of the mould, I think I might treat myself to an ice cream to go with it!

Signed up for the Cookery Course

It’s all action.  The side effects from Chemo 8 are descending heavily, as are the side effects from the white cell booster.  My neck and shoulders are aching, mouth is tender and painful and teeth sensitive.  My fingers are numb and sensitive, my legs are buckling underneath me and even soft gentle bananas are giving me horrible heartburn.

So what better to do than get signed up for the next stage!  Dr W2 had set up my consultation for Radiation Therapy for Tuesday (yes, yesterday!)   Radiation will be carried out at the Cancer Hospital as there is only one Radiation Centre in Bangkok.   I had an appointment to meet my Radiation Consultant, Dr K, at 2 pm and had no idea what to expect.  Please, please no needles or awkward Twang Arm manoeuvres………..

After the registration and administration procedures, we headed to the Counter and waited to see what was next.  Soon I had the usual Blood Pressure, weight and temperature checks and some concern expressed over bruising on my hand.  The nurse was surprised that this was from the blood test last week, until I showed her the marks from the IV!

In no time, we heard Dr W2 arrive and drop an envelope on the counter, accompanied by my name.  Very soon afterwards we were ushered into Dr K’s room.

He talked us through the process for Radiation.  It would start around 3 weeks after final chemo.  There will be 25 sessions – 5 a week over 5 weeks. He suggested a start date of 27 April. The first session will be a computer simulation using CT scan and they will work out carefully how and where to target the rays.  Because my cancer and surgery was on the left side, there needs to be particular care to make sure my heart is properly protected!

I had a long list of questions and he patiently took me through the process. We talked a lot about the effects of Radiation and while it is very different to chemo, it is not without effects too.  The skin will usually develop a kind of “sunburn” after 3 – 4 weeks of the treatment and it is difficult to predict how each person’s skin will react.  I have very fair skin and tend to burn easily so I expect this might be quite uncomfortable.  I was advised not to use any creams immediately before treatment as some creams can have ingredients which react with the radiation.   I asked my questions about being in Belarus a few years after Chernobyl and possible radiation exposure.  Apparently any exposure I might have experienced then is nothing compared to the 5000°C which I will get with the Radiation Machine!!  How many?  I am sure I have probably got that wrong!

Through our discussion there was no sign of a needle or a need to wave Twang Arm around.  🙂 But there was one piece of not so good news.  During the 5 weeks of Radiation I will not be able to swim.  I have to avoid any additional irritation or possible infection so swimming is completely out.  I will miss that terribly but I guess I can cope for 5 weeks?

We saw Dr W2 again after the consultation and in the meantime, he had spoken with Dr K and brought the start of the course to the 20th April.  This means a quicker finish which is very welcome.

So here I am,  all signed up for the next event in the Triathlon from Hell – the Cookery Event!