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How does radiotherapy make you feel?

(14 Posts)
Idratherbeknitting Sat 09-Feb-13 13:48:08

I'm wondering this as my mum starts hers on Valentines day, and she is getting very anxious, and I don't know how to help her.

She found a breast lump, had it biopsied and removed just before Christmas, plus three Lymph nodes (of which one was cancerous). She's decided to just have radiotherapy, which starts very soon.

She's got through the operation and recovery very well, is a very fit and active 65; but this is the first time this type of cancer has touched our family, and other than Dr. Google, who I frankly find too scary, I don't know anything.

She's expecting to be 'out-of-action' for a while as she undergoes her treatment, but I don't think she has any idea how it will make her feel. Does it make you tired, sore? We sort of thought it was like an x-ray.

Any experiances would be useful, as I want to support her the best I can, and don't want her to have my DD's over if she'll be too tired (as she'll not tell me, she'll just soldier on, as she does) - she has two of my three DD's one night a week each, as they love a sleep over, it's not required childcare, they just all enjoy it.

Thanks in advance.

CMOTDibbler Sat 09-Feb-13 15:01:48

She will get tired - not so much from the actual treatment for BC, but the going to the hospital everyday, waiting around etc really does add up to take it out of people, then as the treatment goes on, her skin will become sorer in the breast area.

It can be a very emotional experience too, and she might need some space from the children, so I'd stop the sleepovers for a few weeks till shes done with treatment and recovered - maybe the girls could go round for tea and then come home so she gets time with them, but its not too much.

Idratherbeknitting Sat 09-Feb-13 15:06:44

Thanks for replying.
That's what I was thinking too about the girls.

She says she's dreading the daily trip into the hospital, and I guess the waiting around does get to you.

Sometimesiwonder Sat 09-Feb-13 16:03:23

I also found it made me a bit down after treatment each day. Consultant did warn me about this but I under estimated it a bit as I am not usually prone to gloomy thoughts. But it is a bit depressing. She might need a bit of cheering up.

digerd Sat 09-Feb-13 16:21:15

My DH had a month of this daily on his lung tumour and on his head for the secondaries < inbetween his monthly chemo<. The people he met there for various types of cancer, said you felt nothing for the 1st 9 days, and then you start to feel the side effects after that. And that is exactly what happened.
Breast cancer treatment maybe less severe. My DH was 55 at the time.
Wish your mum well. She sounds lovely.

KurriKurri Sat 09-Feb-13 16:32:33

Hi I'dratherbeknitting, good luck to your mum with her treatment smile
I had RT for breast cancer, and found that it does make you tired (although I'd just finished chemo so it might have been a bit of hangover from that too) the tiredness can last for quite a few weeks afterwards, I felt slightly nauseous each time just after I'd finished but not for long.

Soreness - yes the skin under my arm broke down and was raw - like a burn, - but people are affected differently, she can start preparing her skin now by moisturising (aqueous cream is often recommended), and tell the HCP's straight away of she has any skin problems, so they can help sort it out, - practice nurse at her GP's can give dressings and advice too. But she might very well be lucky and not have too many problems in this direction -I think it depends a lot on where the skin becomes sore - some places heal easier than others.

It is a bit of a chore going to the hospital every day, but you kind of get into a routine, and the actual treatment doesn't take long. You can sometimes be waiting around for a while though (usually because the machine has broken down!), so she needs to arm herself with plenty of reading material smile

Having said all that, I found the radiotherapists to be some of the lovliest HCP's I have met - so friendly and caring, they will explain to her what is happening, and you get to know them quite well as you are going every day.

She will have a preliminary visit (maybe she has already) where she will be shown the Rt room and machines and have things explained to her, and also they will line her up on the machine and she will get some pin prick tattoos, so they know each time how to get the Rt in exactly the right place.

It is doable - once she has done the first one, she will know what is what. My 88 year old aunt has recently had RT for breast cancer, and she managed very well, - her main complaint was feeling tired.

HTH

Idratherbeknitting Sat 09-Feb-13 16:41:07

Thankyou all so much for replying, my mum is brilliant, and this has all come as a bit of a shock, as she's always been so well.

She's already had her tatoos (but can't see them now, she's worried they'll line up her freckles instead!), and I just hope it all goes easily for her.

My Dad is always armed with lots of books, and will be with her all the time; and I've done the only sensible thing - given her more wool from my stash to make another lovely jumper for DS, he grows out of them so quickly!

She has been very tired since this all started, mostly anxiety I think. I think we'll pop in a lot, but not over-do things until her treatment is over.

loads of good wishes to your mum - I echo all that kurrikurri and sometimesIwonder have said - I had radiotherapy for bc and found it tolerable- fortunately had hospital transport for 50 min journey each way-but still a bit of waiting around for other passengers and delays on the machines,with the odd day off because my machine had broken down ! Remind her to drink lots of fluids and to religiously moisturise with aqueous or whatever has been recommended. My skin broke down towards the end of treatment and afterwards but dressings supplied by the breast care nurses v good.

ledkr Sat 09-Feb-13 20:15:28

Hi I had it twenty yrs ago for breast cancer. I must admit I never felt affected by it but has just finished chemo so it seemed nothing in comparison. I was only 26 too so I'm guessing age helped.
I didn'tunderstsn being unable to wash my armpit but baby powder did the trick. I had a treatment rash on my back like a massive birth mark which frightened me so you could reassure her if that happens.
Going everyday is a bit if a pain but in my case the time was spot on if it was at 12 then that was it I went in at 12 and the staff were amazing.
It only takes a minute as well. Give your mum our love won't you.

ledkr Sat 09-Feb-13 20:17:17

Sorry I didn't like not washing

stradbally Sat 09-Feb-13 20:40:55

I found the treatment didn't really affect me but the waiting around each day at the hospital was difficult. Often they were running hours late, and the machines would break down etc. Also, of course people would talk to each other in the waiting room and because everyone there had cancer, there was loads of "gallows humour" which I found really upsetting. I would recommend your mum having someone with her just to pass the time and chat to, if poss.

CotedePablo Sun 10-Feb-13 00:45:29

Idratherbeknitting, good to hear your Dad will be with her when she goes. I've had RT twice, once for BC and once for lymphoma. I'd chemo alongside the RT for BC, so I did get pretty tired, so much so that some days I took public transport rather than drive, as I'd to get from close to Stirling into the west end of Glasgow each day, and it just seemed too difficult at times.

However, your Mum is just having RT, so, combined with your Dad taking her to and from her treatment (assume by car) this will make it easier for her.

As time went on your breast does become sore, and she'll be given aqueous cream or the like to apply. I stopped wearing a bra eventually and bought some of those little vest tops with the little soft bra bit on the inside, so you could maybe mention that to her. Also a good idea not to wear underwires for a while. Anyway, I can't say it ever got to the stage where it was bad enough to, for instance, keep me off my sleep. Funny thing, it's over ten years now, and I still find myself protecting that breast in a crowd.

One of the joys for me was seeing my grandchildren regularly. The eldest was a tiny baby when I had BC but when I'd lymphoma I had five, and, believe it or not, while I was going through the chemo/RT for that I had all five of them overnight, and coped fine on my own. (A longstanding arrangement my children had from before the diagnosis, and I could have opted out if I'd wanted to). So I would suggest you leave it up to your Mum to decide if she would prefer not to have the overnights. Sometimes you just want to keep things as normal as possible, and if she has your Dad there to help, maybe she'll want to continue the arrangement for a little while.

Sorry I have gone on a bit - I think this is the longest post I've ever put on here! All the best to your Mum - this time next year it'll be in the past.

Idratherbeknitting Sun 10-Feb-13 10:40:41

Thankyou again for replying to me. It has made me feel so much better about the RT, as I knew nothing about it. I'll pass on all the advice, and hopefully it will all go well, and will just be a memory soon.

My Dad will always be there with her, they're incredibly close. We'll just play it by ear, and see how she gets on.

Thanks for all your kind wishes.

smee Sun 10-Feb-13 16:38:35

What helped me was finding a nice cafe - I know that sounds trivial, but I had to go for five weeks, which felt like forever, so after the first week I found a fab italian cafe, so used to go there afterwards for half an hour with a book and drink amazing coffee and eat croissants. Took friends if they weren't working/ met DH there when he wasn't working too. Turned it from a chore into a treat iyswim. Really good luck to your mum. Tell her the thought is far worse than the reality with radiotherapy. smile

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