It’s been a minute and a half since my last blog post and so much as happened since then.
As you’ve already figured out given the title of this post, mom has successfully completed her radiation treatment. However like with all things she’s had to face, nothing is ever smooth sailing.
I think I’ve mentioned this before, radiation is definitely the less talked about sibling of chemotherapy… to most people it’s the less troublesome one and that is usually because treatment lasts no longer than 10 to 15 minutes everyday and the side effects don’t seem quite as drastic to those around you. To a cancer patient, their take is most likely to be the complete opposite on this. Going through one of the worst summers Durban has experienced and not being able to wash the area exposed to radiation, having to be wardrobe conscious to prevent chaffing of the skin, watching your skin discolour significantly or being so exhausted that you are forced to stay in bed… Watching mom go through radiation definitely dispelled any of the preconceived notions I believed to be true.
Giving credit where due, mom definitely handled radiation well, especially the first few weeks… Dr Heslop was happy with her progress, checking her every week to make sure she was coping. Though nearing the end of her treatment she developed cellulitis and unfortunately didn’t respond well to oral antibiotics. Cellulitis is a complication which can arise following breast conserving surgery or occur during radiation therapy for breast cancer. It’s an infection that can happen for no reason and at any point from here on out. Cellulitis is an acute, spreading ‘pyogenic’ (producing pus) inflammation, usually of the dermis and subcutaneous tissue. Essentially, it is an inflammatory reaction to an infection, which can cause these symptoms, build-up of fluid, warmth, tenderness and pain, swelling, rash, and redness to the breast. Breast cellulitis is similar to a breast abscess, but has a greater tendency to spread around under the skin and not pool into one pocket like an abscess does. It is often associated with fever and toxicity due to the involvement of the lymphatic system. Some women may also experience relentless chills, and leukocytosis (raised white blood cell count).
Having not responded well to the antibiotics she was put on, the next step was hospitalization for an IV antibiotic. We all know my mother’s aversion to hospital and hearing Dr Heslop tell her she needs to be admitted, left her in tears… like a kid not wanting to go to school… (She’s my mother, I’m allowed to pick on her, don’t judge this relationship).
Radiation was stopped at treatment no 23. However after being discharged from hospital, mom made the brave decision to go back and continue her last 5 booster treatments. Booster treatments are heavier dosages than one normally receives to prevent the recurrence of cancer to that area.
Post radiation hasn’t been the best for mom… having developed oral thrush because of all the medication – the nausea and vomiting were back again… she even lost a bit of weight. These side effects of radiation only wear off after 6 weeks.
In the meantime, she has no choice but to take it easy.
A Brave Little Girl
The CANSA Shavathon is one of South Africa’s best-loved events in support of a very worthy cause, namely showing solidarity with those affected by cancer. Losing one’s hair is a common side-effect of cancer therapy – so shaving your head, colouring your hair, donating a ponytail (25cm or longer) or paying a bail out fee, has become a symbolic gesture of support for cancer survivors.
Seanique, only 12 year’s old but wise beyond her years did her bit this past weekend. This little girl has such a kind spirit and to see her act of support only reinforced that. She chopped off her beautifully long and thick hair to show her support for cancer survivors.
SUPPORTING THE FIGHTERS, ADMIRING THE SURVIVORS, HONOURING THE TAKEN, AND NEVER, EVER GIVING UP HOPE.