Radiotherapy is OVER

It’s past nine pm here in Southampton, so I’ll keep this post short. In fact, I could let the entire thing slide, except that it’s not right and I’m willing to bet my grandmother is waiting for an update.

Today was the LAST day of radiotherapy. And on top of that, the last day of treatment.

Mastectomy: check.

Chemotherapy: check.

Radiotherapy: check.


It’s incredible. Incredible. Today I lay on the radiotherapy table and stared at the ceiling as the normal procedures went on around me. The nurses were ‘ant’ing and ‘ent’ing, shifting me here and tweaking me there, and I kept thinking ‘this is it – today it’s over’. That’s when the music (did I ever mention they play music during radiotherapy? They play music. It’s a pleasent distraction) . . . when the music switched and the entire treatment room swirled into a vortex of time travel. UB40s Red Red Wine began to play as the nurses left me alone for the radiation, and while the machine clunked and buzzed, I disappeared into a memory of my first dance.

For some reason I had thought it’d be a good idea to wear a knitted, long-sleeved sweater to a dance. A purple, knitted, long sleeve sweater. With a hair band to boot. The girls would all dance in a circle, and the guys would huddle in the corner, and whenever a slow song played people would group up in whispers till one by one it was revealed that so-and-so wanted to dance with her, and so-and-so wanted to dance with him. A kid named Steve asked me to dance, and I flat out refused. Why? Two reasons. ONE: I was wearing a knitted long sleeved sweater to a dance, and was thus sweaty, and therefore smelly. Man! I stank. And these were the early days of puberty, so I hadn’t mastered the whole ‘put on deodorant regularly’ thing.  And TWO: I was head over heels for the boy down my street and wanted my first ever slow dance to be with him.

Which goes to show, it’s good to push for what you want – because at the next dance (where I wore no sweater, but tons of deodorant) I had my very first slow dance with the boy down the street. Red red wine wasn’t playing… it was boys to men’s I Swear, but Red Red Wine played at that first dance and it is so burned into my memory that just the mention takes me back in time.  The entire thing reminds me of being giddy, and uncertain, and just so incredibly excited.

Life’s bag of experience suits me now, but I get why it’s fun to be a kid. Anyhow, that’s what I listened to on the radiotherapy table, and that’s what I thought of as the very last bit of radiation was shot into my chest.

And then it was done. Over. The nurses gave me some parting paperwork, I walked out to the waiting room to collect my husband, and we went home. Easy Peasy. This evening Zsolt and I went out for a date (dinner and dessert) to celebrate the end of treatment. That was good. This is good. Everything is good. Tomorrow I’ll have my hair trimmed to equal lengths, and very soon Zsolt will submit his thesis.

Some things are ending, while others are just getting started. There’s so much to look forward to, it’s really a great feeling. Thanks goodness – THANK GOODNESS – treatment is over. What really felt impossible not too long ago is now here, here and real and right now.

Wow. What a relief. What an experience. And here we are, on the other side.

[There’s still a ways to go, but I think the biggest hurdle has been jumped. Now it’s about recovery, change, and prevention. That’s a lot, but it’s an adventure that I look forward to. In the meantime, I’ll keep slathering cream onto my radiotherapy burn and hope it heals within the next few weeks. All I need to do is look at my skin, or my finger nails, or my hair to know that just because treatment is over, doesn’t mean that the fight is done. Plenty left to get done, plenty left to flush away, plenty left to strive toward. But – this is end of treatment, and that is very good thing. A VERY good thing.]

Interview with myself

Tomorrow is my last day of radiotherapy. Last day of treatment. Day of treatment. Treatment. Day. Last . . . Sorry, bit of a tangent there. Anyhow, I’m going to interview myself about this experience and see what happens. *Warning, my stomach is all bubbles right now, and this may influence my answers.

Me: Catherine, how do you feel about finishing treatment?

Me: Great, it’s been a heck of a process and I’m glad things are wrapping up.

Me: Any nerves about the future? I’ve heard that patients often feel a loss after finishing treatment and aren’t sure what to do next.

Me: Nerves? Hmm. Yes. I’ve heard recurrence is most likely within the first two years, and then there is that five year mark as well. Also, I guess I’m a wee bit nervous to learn whether or not I’m genetically inclined toward breast cancer/ovarian cancer because if so it might mean tough decisions in the future . . . when really, I’d like to forget this ever happened.

Me: Do you think you’ll ever forget?

Me. Nope. Maybe I’ll forget to remember, but this past year has been life changing – the impact is ingrained into my life, kind of absorbed, for better and for worse. So that’s hard to forget, though I hope I might eventually forget to remember.

Me: What do you mean, better and worse?

Me: Better as in I value life, value health, value everything more than before. Mind you, I’ve always been thankful for being here. . . but cancer was a wake-up/shake-up, which everyone probably has in their life – and they are good things because in hard times we cling to what most matters. I clung to my family and friends, and to my writing. It really made priorities come into the forefront. That’s incredibly valuable. Plus, I’ll be going home for a while too, which is nice.

Me: And worse?

Me: Worse . . . worse as in, there is this shadow that I push into the background but can’t detach myself from. I’ll always have the appointments, the screenings, the need to take medication and supplements galore . . . when really I’d rather just ditch it all and go live by Horseshoe Lake as a reclusive writer who brews excellent tea, loves her husband and is often visited by friends and family. . . but that’s just hiding from the problem (and it’s not like I can’t have both realities at once, I can have a lakefront home and take medication, of course). Hiding is no more a solution than whining.

Me: What has cancer meant to you?

Me: That’s a stupid question. It’s not like cancer is some long time friend who means the world to me, cancer is cancer. It means struggle, but if I can make this past year worth something, then cancer will maybe mean change. Change . . . opportunity. I guess it’s not a stupid question, but cancer isn’t my friend. Even if my life improves as a result (which is great and I’m open for that to happen), even then, cancer isn’t friendly. However, there are worse wake-up calls.

Me: What’s next for you after treatment?

Me: I have a long list of obligations, holidays, plans . . . but I guess at the core of everything is the idea of moving forward and reclaiming my life. My plan is to reclaim my life – feel good in my skin, feel good in my efforts. I also look forward to my period, which I’m still hoping for, because it’d be lovely to start a family in a couple years.

Me: Would you like a cup of tea right now? Or maybe a sliced orange?

Me: Yes, how did you know?

Me: Lucky guess.

And so I’m going now to steep some tea and slice an orange. Tomorrow is radiotherapy for the last time. And I really, really want this to be the LAST time. Fingers crossed for long-lasting positive results! Hopefully this past year has been worth the effort.  Yay for the end of radiotherapy!!