Exactly 3 weeks after chemo ended I started radiotherapy (rads). It’s not like you just turn up and have it done, there’s a lot of prep before hand.
First you meet your consultant, they explain how rads work, what to expect and explain the important things like how long your treatment will last, how many sessions prescribed for you and paperwork like singing the consent form and checking the area being zapped. The consent form can sound scary, but in my opinion if you’ve had chemo before you will probably find the side effects discussion a breeze!
So after this appointment you get booked in for a CT scan so they can plan your radiotherapy, they are extremely precise to the millimetre of what parts of your body need treating. Someone from their physics department plans out your radiotherapy and passes it over to the radiographers who are treating you – In my case my Cousins wife Katie planned mine, she has years of experience as a radiographer and now she works in physics planning everyone’s treatment. Thank you Katie 😍
So once all that’s done, you get your appointment sheet with the times of your sessions. My local hospital is very good at trying to plan your sessions the same time everyday and working with you to achieve the best time to suit, so early am, late pm etc. I had rads everyday for 3 weeks except weekends usually around 9ish each day. Perfect for me 🙂
The first session I found particularly hard, I was laid on the couch for over an hour whilst they took images of my chest to ensure they were treating the right bit, my good arm ached so bad and the pins and needles were unbearable. But apart from that initial day I found the positioning quite comfortable. I’m the type of person at home and around family and friends to walk through the front door and just take my wig off like you would your shoes or coat, the same for rads – I left my wig with my shoes, I can’t stand lying down with the wig on it feels very weird.
Once on the couch the radiographers, usually 3 of them read out lots of numbers and words I’ve never heard of before, like gantry and imph ( I think that’s how you spell it) there’s these bright green lasers that go across the room to line you up (I forgot to mention they give you pin prick tattoos on your planning scan) if you imagine the matrix film with the green lasers but on a smaller scale that’s what it’s kind of like! They then all agree your in the correct position and off they go. The first time they rush out of the room to deliver the radiotherapy an alarm goes off, I think it’s to ensure everyone’s out the room in time, it’s very scary the first time as they are all rushing off and your laying on the couch very still, thinking your all legging it and im still here!! By day 3 you get used to it and it’s quite laughable looking back!
So apart from being slightly sore and these weird brown spots appearing on my skin, rads was very bearable, it went super quick and I had hardly any symptoms at all. Even fatigue wasn’t an issue.
Like anything health related, new procedures, a change in treatment etc can all be so scary, every experience is so different, but I would say whole heartedly, if you’ve had breast cancer chemo (usually FEC-T or similar) then rads is super duper easy! The only thing I’m so gutted the department didn’t have was a big bell to ring like they do in America! I wanted to ring that bell so bad, to mark the end of my cancer treatment!!