I Got Ink! Four New Tatts and A Rad Holiday

I Got Ink! Four New Tatts and A Rad Holiday

I have just spent two blissful weeks away from Cancerland. Away from sterile hospital corridors and acrid smelling chemo chairs. Away from blood tests, cell counts and horrible side effects.

Away from being sick. Away from Oncology everything.

Leaving Cancerland has been the best.

Two Wednesdays ago, straight after yet another infusion of Herceptin and Perjeta, we hightailed it to the airport, hopped on a plane and flew far away from cold, old Melbourne. And, despite my concerns, neither my bionic boobs nor my husband’s new metal shoulder set off the airport security either – phew!

For a whole, delicious week on the Gold Coast, we did nothing but bask in the glorious Queensland sunshine (Winter up there is 23 degrees, Melburnians!), play countless games of ‘Uno’ and ‘Pick-Up Sticks’ with our children, and order BIG at the hotel buffet. We rode on rollercoasters, lounged by the pool, read books and had deep, soaking bubble baths.

We even did this:

dolphin

Yep. *Insert big fat sigh of content here*

How great are holidays!

I must say that this one was extra special. The last six months have been completely ruled by my treatment regime and we haven’t had the chance to get away together. The emotional toll on us as a family has been high, too. There have been lots of tears, and many times where Jay and I have been too drained and distraught to pick ourselves up cheerily and be proper parents. Thanks to the warmth and love of wonderful friends and family, we have somehow managed to keep an even keel through the darkness, even if perhaps a little wonkily at times.

We had all but resigned ourselves to a year spent pretty much house-bound, when at my very last chemo appointment we discovered something shiny: a surprising two-week break in my treatment schedule before the onslaught of radiotherapy. My husband booked us a mini-break then and there just in case my doctors changed their minds!

And that week away was EXACTLY what the five of us needed: time to switch off, slow down, and just hang out. Time to swim away entire days, order room service midnight feasts, cackle uncontrollably on rollercoasters together and eat fairy floss for lunch.

It was a time for pure release.

bubble bath family holidays flume ride turtles

Our holiday helped me reset my sails, and prepare for the next step in my treatment arsenal: radiotherapy. Since coming home, I’ve had to snap back into Cancerland pretty quickly.

The first appointment for Radiotherapy (affectionately called ‘rads’ by those in the know), was to front up for a CT scan, measurements, and – wait for it – TATTOOING!

Yuh huh. Never thought I’d be the type to get any ink done, myself, but after my first rads appointment, I emerged sporting four brand new tatts!

These small, freckle-sized tattoos are placed in specific spots on my chest and side to help the radiologists line up the machine precisely each time I go in for treatment. They ensure that the radiation is delivered to the exact spots in my chest and armpit where cancerous cells were discovered six months ago, to ensure it zaps them away for good.

tattoo

For the next six weeks, I will head into the radiation oncology area of the Epworth hospital every day. Treatment itself takes about twenty minutes, but the set-up can be painstakingly slow and uncomfortable. The technicians are fastidious with their work. They measure everything carefully, to the millimetre, making sure I’m in the exact same position every day. They line up my tattoos with funky red lasers and fuss around until they’re all completely satisfied.

So far, I’ve had three doses. Besides a lot of buzzing, beeping and whirring, I feel nothing at the time of treatment. As I progress, I will probably see the area of my right breast and underarm become inflamed (a bit like sunburn). It may blister and peel, but should heal up quickly once treatment finishes.

The scary side of radiation is the list of potential long-term side effects it brings with it. The radiotherapy treatment for cancer involves doses that are thousands of times higher than the radiation you receive from your average xray. Due to that radiation exposure, I will have an increased likelihood of lymphoedema in my right arm, a greater chance of developing leukaemia or a second cancer sometime in my future, and the chance of some scarring to part of my lung. While it’s hard not to get bogged down in scary stats like these, I’m focusing on the here and now, and ensuring we do everything to kill every last Breast Cancer cell in my body.

Here’s to fewer cancer cells, and many, many more holidays!

Kate x

20 thoughts on “I Got Ink! Four New Tatts and A Rad Holiday

  1. This is great! I love leaving cancerland, until I get hit with my associations even while I am on vacation (like the ATM gene I have, for example)…but still, it’s awesome to get away from all this mess. I am happy you and your family had so much fun! I am about to go on a little vacation myself and planning not to think cancer. Let’s see how long that lasts for me.

    Good luck with radiation. This is the “easiest” part of the treatment, at least physically. For me it was emotionally overwhelming, more so than chemo. But there may be reasons for this which I will soon write about. Most people do well with rads though and you can go back to doing normal things. I have a couple of suggestions: 1) don’t wear tight clothes and 2) Apply Aquaphor to the radiated area daily (ask about sunscreen too!).

    Good luck. You’ll do great and the days will go by so quickly. xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I find the daily grind of going to hospital a bit emotional. I also feel a bit unnerved by the radiation treatment. It’s invisible and feels quite sinister to me. I know I’ll get there eventually. Thanks for your advice and support x

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  2. Your vacation looked wonderful. We got away a couple of weeks ago and it was amazing as well. I know just what you mean when you talk about your family needing this time. I’m so glad you got a chance to have it before moving on to rads.
    Take care during rads. Use the lotion they gave you religiously. Stretch gently as much as possible. I started having swelling in my arm after rads. If there was one question I wish I asked knowing what I know now, it would be about complimenting rads with some physical therapy (this is not advice, just hindsight on my part). Rads was the easiest and hardest part for me. I hated being there every day and in uncomfortable decisions. But when it’s over, it’s pretty much over. I had 2 weeks of healing, like they told me a would and then suddenly I felt better. Good luck with this part of treatment. You’re in the home stretch!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I should have written ‘how are you feeling’ – in Australia, ‘how are you travelling?’ means how are you going now – I hope now that treatment is over you’re feeling ok
        Funny cultural language barriers!!
        X

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      2. HA!!!!! Now I know something new! That’s awesome and I am going to start saying it myself! I am doing well. I still get tired at night but I can’t discern as to whether that’s “post cancer tired” or just “life tired.” I’m still having issues with cording and swelling in my right arm. But if that’s the worst of it, I’m doing pretty well, I think. How are you traveling? 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I’ve heard the tiredness can hang around for quite a while after treatment. It’s frustrating isn’t it.
        Do you see anyone (like a physio) for your arm? Do you wear a sleeve?
        I’ve had a bit of swelling and pain in my arm too but apparently I’ll be much more prone to oedema after rads, as they’re treating my underarm. I had lots of cancerous lymph nodes.
        Other than having to go to hospital every day which is a real pain, I’m travelling ok. I’ve just started painting again and am painting every day to help relax and clear my head. It’s really helping me.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Great to read that you had such a wonderful holiday Kate! You got through chemo you can get thru rads girl! The daily back and forwards to radiotherapy was something I just got used to, it was what I did. The stretching and exercise was great all the way through, I think it helped me lots. Do your skin care and when your skin looses it’s mind like Carrie said one day you woke up and it starts to feel better, about two weeks after the rads finished my skin was repairing beautifully. Hugs Sus x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Sus. I always think of you and your positivity when I feel like I’m losing it a bit. You have really helped me find a bit of solace and perspective. One week of rads down, five to go.
      Coffee soon?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Reading that made my day, so glad just being my crazy self helps you! Would love coffee soon. Am back at work part time so spending days off sleeping at the moment but a coffee isn’t hard work to fit in! I love coffee!! I sent you my number DM on Twitter – did you get it? Let me know what works for you hugs Sus xo

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    1. Thanks do much Michelle. I know you understand better than most what a toll this road takes on people and their families. Thank you for thinking of me, and sending such strength and support when you too are going through such a difficult time with your mum. Xx

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  4. Thanks Kate – glad to read that you and the family had a great holiday. Your blog helps us all understand what your treatment and thoughts entail. Thinking of you.
    LFM&J

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