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Monday, March 26, 2012

Radiation 2

It's a lovely day, a brisk wind blowing with a nudge of autumn in the air.

Today I start the second week of radiation and can report that so far so good. Apart from feeling a little tired by the Friday, I have no skin irritation yet and no real discomfort to speak of.

I have found out that I am to have 24 shots in total so I'm counting down them off one by one: 6 down, 18 to go.

As my days are now organised around the time of my appointments, I have started a reasonable routine.

This morning Ethel and Al go to collect George's ashes while I go to the gym.

This is the fourth week of my mission to somehow regain something of the fit body I used to have.

The first three weeks, I was too embarrassed about my bald head so I wore a hat. But the last few days, I haven't been bothered. It's just too hot.

Today when I arrive I think to myself that, after literally decades of regular gym exercise, I don't think I've ever seen anyone who looked like they'd been through chemotherapy. (You could call it a Double-X Chromosome Chrome-Dome Free Zone, all in all.)

I wonder what the other gym goers think of me but really, I don't care.

Now that the swelling from the drugs has receded a bit, I am able to fit into some of my old sports bras. I just stuff Fake Nicky into the gap and off I go.

Last week, the prosthesis got really hot and sweaty while I was on the running machine, so I just took it out in disgust and popped it into the drinks holder.

Still, it's useful missing a breast because it creates a handy space in which to stick my iPhone. Sometimes I take my iPod but I have to watch out because it falls through the crevice and can end up in my crutch.

I am winging this business of getting back into exercise as my research into the subject of mastectomies, breast cancer and exercise has proved largely fruitless.

Women wanting to get a little bit of their strength and conditioning back generally rely on the information shared by other breast cancer sufferers, as there's not a huge amount of information out there about the 'dos' and 'don'ts'.

As it is, I try not to spend any more than one-hour in there as it's important not to over do it. Even I know that!

All that time, I assiduously avoid my reflection, other than to check whether the tits are even. (A loose prosthesis tends to misbehave, somewhat. Especially at golf - I've only played once so far - where it ended up under my chin!).

Six months ago I had a fairly flat stomach and now, I have a Buddha-esque paunch. It is a little sad but what can I do other than breathe in - 2-3-4 and breathe out 2-3-4 while attempting to maintain good form?

After the gym, I have been trying to do some writing but today things are a little different.

Today, Ethel and I go to my mum's for lunch with a good friend of my parents, John. He and his wife Dell have just returned from a big trip around Australia and, on their journey, I kid you not, he has telephoned every single week to check on my progress.

John actually gave the toast to my parents at my wedding. As a dear old pal of my dad's, I think he realises how close I am to my father. Dad has had many sleepless nights since I was diagnosed, and I know John really understands his distress.

I am really glad Ethel comes out with me. As you can imagine, she has had to make a huge adjustment in her life lately. She and I share one thing at the moment: we are both trying to create a new 'normal' in our lives.

When Ethel and I arrive, John and Dell and another couple, Richard and Ruth are there. I think it's good that I made the effort to go because John looks relieved. Ruth comments on my 'good colour'.

It's only now, I guess, I realise that there seems to be a stereotype of 'cancer sufferers'. I think people expect us to be kind of pale and wasted and sickly looking! Maybe a bit like Dr Evil after a couple of months on the water diet?

Indeed, many people seem to be surprised at the activity I am managing. Two weeks ago I even returned to being a soccer referree.

Physically, refereeing can be as hard or as mild as you want to make it. Some of the fatter ones will call a ball in or out from the other side of the field because they are too lazy to run. (I'm sure some would call the game from the change room if they could get away with it. We soccer girls call these ones "special". You know the ones?)

But importantly, it's a good brain exercise because it involves spatial awareness, observation and memory.

And it's good for my confidence, which, I have to admit has taken a bit of a knock in recent months.

The real test of that came last Friday when I had to attend a Youth Referees Seminar. There were 400 or so of us, mainly, well YOUTHS in an auditorium at Griffith University. And there I was with my bald head.

I wasn't as self-conscious as I thought I would be. However, at one point, I realised I kept trying to shift my prosthesis into a more comfortable spot. I fear, it was only later I realised it must have looked as if I was channelling my inner porn star.

So today at lunch, I am careful to keep my hands away from Fake Nicky and, instead, I enjoy the company and conversation.

Afterwards, I leave Mum and Dad's place with an Esky full of left overs for the family dinner. Score!

Ethel and I drive into South Brisbane but I'm in a bit of a lather. My appointment is at 2.55 pm and I don't allow enough time. I end up speeding a little as I think I'm running late. (I get every red light and there are ALWAYS roadworks on the M3).

At the Mater, I ask Ethel to park the car and sprint to the Radiation building. Virtually as soon as I sit down I am called in and as usual, everything happens quickly.

I know the routine like clockwork already: Strip, pause, chat, bed, chat, zap, chat, front counter, carpark, home!

We end up with a cruisy journey home with not much traffic. We pick up Harry from Capalaba and get home.

With no dinner to be prepared, I manage a short stroll with Spunky then settle down with a weak Scotch and soda.

Outside it is a cool, clear night with a crescent moon. In the bedroom I can hear Ben chuckling in his famous Scooby-Doo-esque way at something funny on Youtube. With Spunky at my feet, the world is otherwise quiet and still.

All in all, this is a great moment for breathing.

I for one, am not taking a minute of this thing called living for granted.

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