Everyday life during treatment

My Life With Breast Cancer

This is my first official blog! I’ve made some reasonably personal posts on my social media accounts, but they were usually quite short and based on whatever I happened to be doing at that moment. A blog feels so much more personal somehow. I’m not sure I really know why, it just feels that way to me. I suppose a blog should be posted with more frequency than the odd social media post and that means being willing to be more open and honest. Until this point, I’ve not been ready to commit to a steady flow of personal posts, I’m still not really sure how personal I am willing to get at this point, but it somehow felt right to start now while I find myself under treatment again.

Some of you may be aware of my story. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2015 and it was quickly clear that the disease had spread into my bones. I have had an awful lot of treatment to try and control the illness – chemotherapy, mastectomy, removal of ovaries, LOTS of radiotherapy, hormone treatment, monthly injections and a radio-frequence surgery.


A scan in March, purely done for my retiring oncologist to hand over my case - and thank goodness he did - showed 3 new spots on my vertebrae and a spot on my liver. My medication was changed, I had liver surgery and my latest scan a few weeks ago showed that the spots on the vertebrae were still there but that the rest of the body was clear. Not the best news, but not the worst news either. My husband and I took this as a small victory and my new oncologist decided we should zap the dastardly spots with some radiotherapy sessions.

Which brings me to the topic of this blog post! Due to various reasons, illness included, I am not working at the moment and had decided that I was going to concentrate on Simply Zoë, a project close to my heart that energises me in such a positive way and really just enjoy the summer! I subscribed to the gym to start getting back into shape, I bought a lakeside pool season ticket and was intent on fresh air and sun on my skin, all of which I have lusted over every summer while being stuck in the office. You can imagine my dismay at finding out more radiotherapy was needed! Cancer has got in the way of me leading my life in so many ways – being bald for my wedding, infertility, spending my 40th birthday in the hospital after a mastectomy and radiotherapy always falling over birthdays!

Radiotherapy can burn and damage your skin. Though a short treatment such as the one I am on at the moment shouldn’t cause any visible damage, the skin should still stay out of the sun until the treatment is finished. While the treatment doesn’t stop me going out and about, I have been written on like a dot to dot puzzle as an extra assistance to place me in the correct position on the table. The net result of which, is that that I look like I’m covered in some seriously dodgy tattoos!

I had a decision to make. Do I sit inside while it is scorching hot, just to hide my body during the treatment or do I go out loud and proud in a bikini and just live my life? As you can see from the photo I decided to be loud and proud! My body bears many visible scars and signs after all it has been through over these past four and a half years, most of which I can hide very well, but these markings show that clearly something is going on and people do have a tendency to stare (there are a weirdly high percentage of stare bears in Geneva!)

I decided not to care what other people think. There are two choices whilst under treatment, stay at home waiting until the marks can be washed off, or live life. Cancer has snatched so much away from me and now I just want the control to continue living in the way I feel comfortable with. Because I’m here, I’m alive and that is amazing! I know from experience that the chronic fatigue that usually follows my radiotherapy treatments will probably hit me next week and I will manage myself accordingly! Not least because two of my oldest and closet friends will be visiting with their children for ten days and I want to have the energy to have lots of fun with them. So yes, everyday life during treatment needs to be managed, but the point is, I need to have  the confidence to take control so that I manage the treatment and it doesn’t manage me!

Zoe Zenklusen Payne