The more I think about it, the more I think my hip problems in January were a running injury, because in the weeks since I stopped running, my hip has felt better – less pain and more flexibility. That said, there’s often stuff you can’t see and you don’t feel, until it starts to get worse – I guess that’s why people often don’t realise they have cancer, and why it’s SO IMPORTANT to check regularly.
In my case, while my hip feels less painful, the PET scan I had in January showed a tumor starting to form in my right hip bone, so my Oncologist referred me to the Orthopedic Surgeon to see what he thought it best to do.
I’m no expert on cancer treatment in the UK, but here in the Netherlands, my oncologist (Dr Kerver) ‘owns’ my case, and is my first contact point if I start to feel any pain. He’s a knowledgeable chap, but that doesn’t mean he’s an expert in everything! So I sometimes find he tells me things based on what he does know, and I then have this confirmed by a specialist. This is what’s happening with my hip.
So after a PET scan on the Thursday, I saw Dr Kerver the next day (results overnight, that’s pretty quick…) He referred me to the Orthopedic Surgeon, who then called me last Monday and saw me last Wednesday (again, pretty impressive).
Based on what Dr Kerver had told me, my options were to radiate or have surgery. Because my bones are weak from having so much chemo, radiation may not mitigate the risk of fracture. So they may opt to give me a complete hip replacement, to replace the weak, cancerous bone with something which then doesn’t need radiation.
A hip replacement – ok, so now I feel old! But this is still a normal procedure, right? So whilst the prospect wasn’t appealing as it’d immobilize me again for a time, it didn’t scare or frighten me. So I trotted off to see the Orthopedic Surgeon with the worst in mind. After a bit of bending and stretching (and yes, this time I’d prepared; wearing appropriate underwear and shaving my legs the night before!) he decided that actually, the fracture risk was low, my muscles were strong and therefore we’d try radiation, and he’d see me eight weeks later to see how I’m doing.
Needless to say, I left feeling elated! My muscles are still strong, I don’t need a new hip, and we can just zap the blighter… I was tempted to name it at this point, but decided not to, in the hope it won’t be around long enough to justify a name! Instead, I flew back to the UK for a long weekend.
This all happened in under a week – pretty impressive, right? But it got better… Having seen the Orthopedic Surgeon last Wednesday, I got a call from Radiology on Monday, asking me to come in for prep on Tuesday.
Now, for those who’ve been following my blogs over the years, radiation has been something of an adventure for me. The treatment itself doesn’t hurt, you don’t feel a thing. There can be after-effects (depending on where they radiate), but the procedure itself is pretty simple. So I try to turn it into fun, rather than see it as ‘treatment’. In the past, this has involved having plastic masks molded around my head (which I then sent off to Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team, who duly returned it a week later after their design team had some fun with it, turning it into a Lewis Hamilton lookalike helmet!). But when they radiate your body (rather than your head), they draw marks and lines on your skin, to ensure that they line you up on the machine and zap the right spot.
When I had radiation on my boobs in 2017, they drew a grid pattern on my chest using sparky pens, which my mates hands to keep redrawing on me during the three weeks of treatment – highly entertaining asking your girlfriends to draw on your boobs! Yep, we had some fun with that (and left various cheeky messages for the Radiologists in the process!) I also have permanent tattoos on my chest where the grid lines crossed (just in case the girls got carried away with their artistic creations!)
So on Tuesday, the Sparky pens came out again, as I was prepped for radiation on my hip – more grid lines drawn around my nether regions and a CT scan to line me up to them.
Unfortunately, I then had to wait for a zapping appointment. The nurses on Radiology reception (who now recognize me and chuckle when I rock up, thanks to the crazy photo they have on my file; one of those “please look into the camera” moments, taken on a day where I was feeling particularly mischievous!) apologized that they’re pretty busy at the moment, so it could be up to two weeks before I actually get zapped. That means I can’t swim, take a bath, or shower with anything other than water for the next two weeks (so the lines don’t wash off).
Before I go on; you may be wondering what’s happen to Mutley and his litter while all this has been going on with Junior before Christmas, and my (unnamed) hip invader. Well, Mutley and his pups are still in situ unfortunately, and generally cause a nuisance of themselves by nudging my ribs, leaning on my lungs, and prodding other internal organs, just to remind me that they’re still there. For now, I’m keeping their tantrums at bay with paracetamol, ibuprofen and regular ‘flotation’ therapy (ie hot baths, lots of bubbles, a glass of red and a good book). Pipe down you little f***ers, your time will come…
Anyway, after my radio lines were drawn on Tuesday, I lasted just two days without my floatation fix, and was seriously contemplating inviting the girls over for some pelvic join the dots. But yet again, the speed with which I’m being treated came up trumps, and yesterday I got a call from the radiology team telling me I had a slot today.
So this morning, I returned to the VU, handed over my phone to the Radiologist, who immediately knew what I wanted him to do (although he failed miserably at airbrushing the cellulite) I was lined-up, x-rayed, zapped, photographed for the blog, and sent on my way.
The possible after effects of today’s zap could be further pain in my hip for a few days, before it gradually goes away. That’s what I felt before, so hopefully that’s all I’ll get again. Because the radiation zone is close to my abdomen, I may get some nausea too, but I’m already taking anti-nausea tablets to protect my stomach from the painkillers, so I’m hoping that won’t materialize either.
In some ways, this now feels like a repetitive storyline – I get pain, I see the Oncologist, he refers me to a specialist, who suggests treatment, I go to hospital, I come home, I feel a bit rough for a bit, I feel ok again, I get pain somewhere else, I go see the Onc…
But this is how I’m living now. I’ve got used to never feeling perfect. For me, pretty good is good enough. Most of my symptoms are aches and pains – nothing debilitating. So as long as I can still do stuff, I’m living. I may not be living the same way as other people, but I’m cracking on with it. If anything, it makes me value those moments (and it can be just moments) where I suddenly think “oooh, I don’t hurt anywhere?!” even more. You hear people say “stop, be present, be thankful for what you DO have” etc, but it’s often hard to do that when your mind is pre-occupied with other things… but when you park those pre-occupations for just a moment, focus on those thankful things for just a moment, it can make you smile and make a difference. Some people don’t have those luxuries. I do. I’m grateful for them. And I’m relishing every single one.
Hippy Friday y‘all!