Self care during your radiotherapy

Treatments to prevent recurrence of breast cancer is individual these days. Back in the early 90`s the treatment seemed to be more equal for anyone with breast cancer: Surgery, chemo- and radiotherapy.  Todays topic is Self care during your radiotherapy. It is just some advice from me as a nurse, friend and cancer patient, but I hope you will get proper information from your therapists before your treatment.
My breast cancer treatment plan
https://wp.me/pb4jAC-Bk

Self care during your radiotherapy

Tiredness

The radiotherapy stops the growth of the cancer cells, or kill them. The therapy will also have an impact on healthy cells, but they will gradually recover. It is very common to become tired because your body is trying to get rid of the waste that is produced during the radiotherapy.  To get rid of the waste it is so important to drink 1.5-2 L of water everyday.
It is also important to do something that gives you energy. A daily walk helped me to avoid the sofa, along with some of my hobby projects.

Stop smoking

I know that it is easier said than done. But if you can reduce the amount of cigarettes to a minimum that would benefit you. Smoking reduce the oxygen saturation in the cells, and cells with little oxygen react poorer to the radiation. That is really good self-care during your radiotherapy!

You may put a daily walk into your schedule to increase the blood circulation. In the long term this would strengthens your immune system.

Skin reactions

The skin may become red, itchy and sore. Some develop radiation dermatitis and ulcer. To prevent these problems you can cool the breast off after each treatment. Just wring a cloth in cold, clean water and lay the cloth over the breast. Afterwards you can let the breast air-dry before you apply a water based moisturiser without any perfume. Note that it is not recommended to use a moisturiser right before the radiation on the treatment day. Some companies make very good moisturiser meant for people with dermatological problems, also the radiated skin. I would recommend products made by La Roche-Posay, but I assume you will find good products from other merchants too.

If your armpit needs radiation it is better not to shave the armpit and use roll on or perfume. The hair will protect the skin.
If you experience skinless areas it is recommended not to  apply a moisturiser, because the skin will become even more irritated and itchy.

Showering

You can take your shower.  My hospital used a skin marker to mark the radiation field, but it bleached or almost disappeared during my showering. They constantly had to do the remarking, but I didn`t like that. The therapist came far to close to me, and with the threats of Covid19 I decided not to shower that often as I wanted. Anyway, use a shower soap without perfume and pH neutral. It is also important to use lukewarm water and low pressure. I would advice you not to towel your skin. Just gentle pat the skin dry or even better, air-dry before you put a water-based moisturiser on.

Bathing

Personally I didn`t have a bath in the bathing tub or a swimming pool during my treatment period. Chloride makes your skin dry and itchy and the water in the bathing tub will become polluted.
If you are having a sun bath, you have to protect the skin, for at least a year. The skin gets easily sore and sunburned, and may get pigmentation. Use colourful clothes and a high sun factor 30 to protect your skin.

 Clothes

To prevent a sore skin it is recommended to use clothes made of cotton or silk. I preferred cotton, because it is easier to get than silk. Rubbing will make your skin even worse. I experienced that it was unpractical to use a bra during the therapy, and it can be smart to let the air in to the breast.

Dysphagia

If you in addition, get radiotherapy to the lymph nodes to the neck and the radiation field includes trachea, the mucosa tissue may become dry and sore. You may therefore experience dysphagia. My self care tips for you are to avoid hot foods and drinks, spicy and sour food. You may need painkillers to ease off the pain. If you are having problems to eat I suggest you talk to the radio therapist.

Other problems

During my therapy I experienced that I could not stretch my arm properly. When I should place kitchen ware in my cupboards, I had to stand on my toes to reach the shelf. My solution was actually to exercise every day. After a few days these problems was not a issue to me anymore. I have mentioned it before, but it is very important to get out of the chair and sofa and do something that gives you energy no matter what. This is good psychological self-care during your radiotherapy.

It is actually rather important to continue being kind to your self with some self care during your radiotherapy.
Read more about side effects at

https://www.rogelcancercenter.org/living-with-cancer/mind-body-and-side-effects/how-cope-side-effects-radiation-therapy

https://balmonds.co.uk/blogs/blog/can-radiation-therapy-cause-a-rash

 

The Covid19 disease and cancer

In this very moment many people are fighting for their lives while I am living in a calm corner of the pandemic world, for now. Just 33 people among a population of approximately 50 000 have tested positive, and all 33 are declared healthy and out of isolation. No one in my town have died yet. But we are all living in an experiment and we don`t now the outcome yet. Some diseases put you at risk and the Covid19 disease and cancer may be a serious combination.

Covid19 and cancer

Chemo therapy makes you more vulnerable for any infections. Even for common infections like a cold. These viruses have your body been fighting many times. During a chemo therapy your immune system would have problem fighting these viruses, because the number of leukocytes are very low. Chemo therapy is on the list of risks that may give you serious symptoms of Covid19. No one has met the corona virus causing the Covid19 disease before. So meeting this virus can be devastating even for people who don`t have any underlying diseases.
Radiotherapy is also on the list of treatments that may give you a serious Covid19 disease. Radiation stops the mitosis of the cancer cells or kill them, but it also paralyze the healthy cells for a short period of time. Since the corona virus is an airway virus I assume the doctors are talking about radiation to the chest, neck, face and so on when it comes to developing serious symptoms, because the air have to pass by these body parts down to the lungs. When the radiation paralyze the healthy cells your body may be invaded by the virus.
Information about Covid19 symptoms can you find on several web sites like https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/symptoms-causes/syc-20479963
I got some links for you about the Covid19 disease and cancer at the end of my post if you want to read more about it.

My radiotherapy

I have had radiation to the chest, because of my breast cancer. But I had to breathe in a specific way called coaching to minimize radiation to my lungs. To describe the method I will say it is like breathing in on command. Instead of lifting my stomach I had to lift the chest during respiration. I had to hold the breath until the radiotherapist told me to breath normally. But even though my radiotherapy is finished the radiation will keep on working for several weeks.
Radiation treatment
I see myself in the risk group, but my doctor disagree. I mean that since I have had cancer, my immune system must have been out of order. I also got an auto immune disease and have to take tablets for it everyday.  So I don`t trust my doctor and I will take no risks and rather stay safe. I have changed my lifestyle to support my immune system like no alcohol, more fruits and vegetables, more fish, at least 10 000 steps a day and enough sleep to mention some measurements.
Ulcerative colitis and colonoscopy controls

Cancer and anxiety

I have been living with anxiety since December 19 when I had my first mammography, and I just knew I had breast cancer. Do I have breast cancer? https://wp.me/pb4jAC-zN
The uncertainty and fear for life caused panic attacks, and I truly believed that I never would see my youngest son grow up. I even woke up at nights with panic attacks and found myself standing on the floor. I had written down most of what my oncologist had told me, but during my panic attacks I could not find any comfort in my writing. In the end I had to ask my doctor for a prescription on Oxazepam, at least to get some sleep. But I also found that the medicine also helped me to pull myself together and think rational.
Time went by and my radiation treatment is done My breast cancer treatment plan
I never thought I would reach the end of my seven weeks of radiation because of the pandemic. But I made it. I voluntarily isolated myself to prevent any diseases, because that would have put me in a 14 day of quarantine.

Corona and anxiety

When Corona invaded the world I forgot all about the cancer. My anxiety was now caused by this virus. The difference now is as I feel it, I am not “alone” in the world with this overwhelming feeling. These days I think everyone knows what anxiety feels like……….

Cancer rehabilitation and side effects

After my radio therapy I was supposed to take care of myself. I planned to have long walks, visit friends and my mother, relax in our cottage and train. But corona put an end to all of my plans.
I have to use half of my days to be a (non pedagogic) teacher for my son. It doesn’t help him very much when his so called teacher is struggling with side effects like fatigue and concentration issues. The cure for these side effects is to drink a lot of water, a walk outdoor and a hobby or an activity that gives you energy.

The lockdown

Since March 12. we were not aloud to travel out of the municipality to visit the cottage. This summer we can`t have our annually travel to Sweden, so we have to be tourists in our own country. But actually, I will miss it. The last few days in Umeå, Sweden A Campsite holiday in Sweden
I got mixed emotions when the schools in Norway are opening for my son this weeks. Some say children are less likely to become very ill of Covid19. Other children have died of the virus and some have developed the Kawasaki syndrome. So I don`t no what to believe or think anymore. I guess I will keep my son at home, because the Covid19 disease and cancer make me scared.

Hygiene and preventing Covid 19

For the future, at least until we got a vaccine, I guess I will continue to isolate myself, keep distance to other people and try to maintain good hand-, cough-, and sneeze hygiene. After I have been to the grocery store I also wipes of the packaging of the goods I have bought. You never know who and what other people have done to it.

Prevent Covid19
Preventing the Covid19 disease and cancer
3HandwashHandrub
Prevent the Covid19 disease and cancer

Useful links

You can read more about the Covid19 disease and cancer at https://www.esmo.org/guidelines/cancer-patient-management-during-the-covid-19-pandemic
https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/cancer-in-general/coronavirus-and-cancer
https://www.macmillan.org.uk/coronavirus/cancer-and-coronavirus
https://www.cancer.gov/contact/emergency-preparedness/coronavirus
https://kreftforeningen.no/ This page is for Norwegians.
Black to the Basics Crochet Tank Top Kit