This morning I was back in the Christie (where I’d also been yesterday for a counselling session), and after the hour’s delay for appointment (standard), I filled in the ‘how happy are you’ and ‘how much pain are you in’ paperwork before I was discharged from this particular session of radiotherapy:
Dr Calaco said ‘in the nicest possible way, I hope not to see you again, unless we pass in the corridors of the hospital’. So, it’s pretty straightforward, I’m continuing with my main oncologist – Dr Calaco is a specialist in stereotactic radiotherapy and thus looked after that specialist piece of care.
We need to keep an eye on the 1% chance of paralysis, and 20% chance of spinal fracture, but the further we get from the treatment (we’re about 6-7 weeks on now) the better that is, but could be ‘late effects’. Basically, we agreed that the chemotherapy is kicking my butt far more than the radiotherapy did (aside from the nausea, and some initial pain).
I asked what we’re hoping to see from the scans (which will be 3, 6, 9, 12 and 24 months post treatment … for this particular treatment anyway – I’m not sure if these are CT, MRI or full body scans, but I’m sure I’ll be having a variation of each anyway! I asked if it would have been ‘blasted to smithereens’ and he said ‘no, because then we would have damaged your spinal column’. So, there will also be something visible there as the bone will have ‘scarred’, but the radiologist should be able to tell if it’s scarring or live cancer tissue (I think?), and the chemotherapy and targeted therapies (I said at one point I thought I was having immunotherapy, I don’t think that’s right) continue to try and keep the cancer from spreading anywhere else.
So, what we’re hoping to hear at the next scan is NEAD (No Evidence of Active Disease); primary cancer sometimes has NED because there’s been no evidence of further active disease, which there clearly has been in my case.
Overall, then, all sounding very positive. Back into chemotherapy one last time on Tuesday, before lose the evil docetaxol and just continue with Herceptin and Perjeta, and load in bone strengtheners, then onto more appointments about hormones, ovary removal, ongoing scans, checks, etc.
Oncologist said on Monday: ‘this is for life now’, but I am very reassured to hear from many who once they’ve gone through the first treatments are living relatively normal lives, though things can change swiftly, so continue living life to the full!
Dr Bex Lewis is passionate about helping people engage with the digital world in a positive way, where she has more than 20 years’ experience. She is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University and Visiting Research Fellow at St John’s College, Durham University, with a particular interest in digital culture, persuasion and attitudinal change, especially how this affects the third sector, including faith organisations, and, after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017, has started to research social media and cancer. Trained as a mass communications historian, she has written the original history of the poster Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster (Imperial War Museum, 2017), drawing upon her PhD research. She is Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint, and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst (Lion Hudson, 2014; second edition in process) as well as a number of book chapters, and regularly judges digital awards. She has a strong media presence, with her expertise featured in a wide range of publications and programmes, including national, international and specialist TV, radio and press, and can be found all over social media, typically as @drbexl.