On the first day of radiotherapy, way back when on 21 August, I was told that the treatment may cause some ‘skin irritation’. I was also told of this ‘skin irritation’ when I went in the week before my treatment starting for my planning and when I met with the Medically Trained Person who decided to give me the treatment in the first place. I did not heed the warnings. I mean really, what is a bit of dry skin when one faces the daily challenge of bone pain, whilst taking a hefty dose of chemotherapies?
On 21 August I was given a small tube of aqueous cream to apply to my back. At the time, I thought that the request was quite laughable because I could not touch the area of my back where the cream was intended. Reclaiming the ability to touch my lower back without wincing was one of the reasons I was there in the first place. I got the impression that this was lost on the radiographers. Given this slight practical issue, which I was not going to ask somebody else to do for me, and the fact that I did not experience any ‘skin irritation’ when I had radiotherapy in October 2012, I took an educated risk and decided not to apply the cream. As some of you will be aware, I spent much of the radiotherapy era vomiting and feeling less than sexually desirable, so I had little energy to consider whether the skin on my back was turning to leather.
You might have guessed the outcome of this already, but with the beauty of hindsight, I can say that my decision was a mistake.
I made a big mistake. It is an itchy, red, sore and flakey mistake, covering my lumbar region, which decided to reveal itself four weeks after my treatment ended.
It revealed itself at a time when I could not seek immediate medical assistance, so I wisely decided to self diagnose the affliction on the Internet . After a quick panic stricken detour via images of plasmacytoma, I concluded that I had a radiotherapy burn made worse by somebody who shall remain nameless, accidentally scratching the wound in question. Despite my sound medical knowledge, as soon as was practical, I sought medical advice. That was yesterday.
Yesterday, contrary to my informed self diagnosis, I was asked to seek immediate medical intervention because the symptoms sounded like shingles. To keep you up to speed on what one should avoid post transplant, a diagnosis of shingles or it’s sister chicken pox are right up there in the panic inducing bracket.
I consequentially spent two hours yesterday feeling like a leper. My visit to the hospital had to be prearranged so I could be taken straight to a private room to protect the ‘transplant patients’. I wanted to stamp my feet a little at this statement and tell the Medically Trained Person who arranged my visit that I too was a transplant patient and was all to aware of how risky shingles could be to others as well as myself. I went to the cinema instead.
So I did not alarm anybody, as in other patients and their family members waiting patiently for treatment, I had to whisper twice in reception before I was quarantined into a dark room watching Jeremy Kyle, desperate for a cup of water because I put too much chilli sauce on my steamed bun prior to my arrival at the hospital. For this reason and my potentially contagious state, I desperately tried to avoid kissing a patient’s wife but failed. It was most stressful. Thankfully, after a quick inspection, a Medically Trained Person concluded that I do not have the shingles. I have a radiotherapy burn made worse by somebody who shall remain nameless accidentally scratching it. The area was described as ‘angry’.
It was an experience almost as exciting as the time they thought I had herpes.
An hour later, I left the building with antihistamines (aka the best sleeping pill ever), menthol aqueous cream and emergency antibiotics should my back become infected. I still cannot fully reach the wound without feeling like my back will snap, so I suspect for the next week at least, I’ll be sporting a permanent grease stain and dirtying my bed sheets.
The lesson I take from this latest myeloma treat is that just when I thought I knew everything there was to know and had experienced everything I could experience, something else comes and bites me almost in my arse. And the panic ensued…
P.S. I do not understand why the aqueous cream has to be menthol flavoured. It’s zingy.