Loch Ness Monster Marathon

It is not strictly speaking the Monster Marathon but it is a monster feat!

I might have gone through what I termed the Triathlon of Cancer treatments but that was not really through choice.  However, my niece S and her hubby N have chosen to run in the Loch Ness Marathon on Sunday and what is more, they have chosen Breast Cancer Care as the cause they want to support, raising both funds and awareness.  Considering S and N have two young children and have been training during wind and rain (we’re talking Loch Ness and wild Scottish weather remember) this is a really monster achievement.

I am one of 3 women close to S who have been diagnosed with Breast Cancer this year so it is an emotionally charged time.  Breast Cancer Awareness Month begins on Friday, my own Cancerversary is on Saturday and the Marathon on Sunday.  In addition to the physical demands of the marathon, S told me that she feels so emotional about the event that her tummy feels like a washing machine!  She promises pictures of the event and in turn I promise to share them here and on Facebook once they arrive from the other side of the world.

Breast Cancer has been a monster, invading our lives and it seems fitting that S and N will be running on the doorstep of an apparently much friendlier monster.

I’ll be thinking of you as you pound the lochside paths, chasing the cancer monster.  I cannot begin to thank you enough.

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!

The Triathlon Perspective

I have just seen cancer treatment described as a Triathlon (or the Triathlon from Hell, actually was the direct quote) and it really made me smile – and think!!  There are various components to treating breast cancer, but for many of us there are three big ones.  So the Triathlon terminology with its connotation of three main physically demanding and mentally challenging elements sounds quite accurate.

The Breast Cancer Triathlon does not see us competing against each other, however, but rather we focus on completing the course against one common opposition.

For many of us on the Breast Cancer Triathlon, the three main events are – the Surgery Event, the Chemotherapy Event and the Radiotherapy Event.  Of course there are peripheral extras, such as the Port Insertion Procedure and Hormone and other Drug Treatments (such as Tamoxifen, Herceptin) and other activities to keep us from getting bored.  I could add the Twang Arm special event too.  But the biggies are without doubt those three, although we do not always tackle events in the same order.  It depends on diagnosis, pathology and an element of choice.

The surgery event was my first event.  I found it quite terrifying (before), had interesting dreams (during) and relief and discomfort (after).  Although it was the quickest event to complete by a long way, it is a significant hurdle, especially mentally, and the recovery stage requires considerable effort.

Now I am 75% of the way through the Chemo event which I find gets harder the further I go.  At this stage, I would call it the most gruelling and horrible event.  I am glad that I have rewarded myself at each of the hurdles – I am sure that has helped me to focus on the finish line for this part of the Triathlon.  The finish line of this second event is in sight but still I am not quite there.  It is a struggle to muster the staying power but I know I have to.

Beyond that I am starting to feel the need to prepare for the third event – the Radiotherapy course.  I am not exactly looking forward to it and do trust it will be less demanding than the current event.  I will celebrate course completion with the Tamixofen Treat – years of hormone treatment which is highly effective at keeping recurrence at bay. Not an event, but a kind of follow up.

So as I approach the end of the second event, I am trying hard to focus on completing the whole course and beating the opposition with all of your support and help!!!