Delayed Radiation Injury to Soft Tissue

Jenny S was 48 years old when she came to Wesley Hyperbaric for treatment of her radiation soft tissue injury in 2012. Radiation soft tissue injury can occur anywhere a patient has received radiation therapy. It may appear from 6 months and sometimes up to 5 years after the radiation exposure.  The area is particularly susceptible if there is any surgery performed within the area after the radiation therapy. Common sites include, head and neck, pelvis (including bowel, bladder and vagina), breast. For more information please visit Delayed Radiation Injury to Soft Tissue and Bone

This is Jenny’s story:
I had radiation of the pelvis for cancer. My surgeon referred me at the suggestion of the Radiation Oncologist as my GP was uncertain of why I was experiencing the symptoms that I had.  My symptoms started about 7 months after radiotherapy and a few months after surgery. It took another 7 months to commence hyperbaric oxygen therapy as I had to have chemotherapy.

The impact that the radiation damage had on my lifestyle and day to day living was progressively getting worse.  Most of the time I was experiencing pain and discomfort in my pelvic/lower abdominal region. Consequently I could not resume exercising, I found it difficult getting out of cars, bending down (and was so anxious not to drop anything), getting off the couch or from a sitting position. My experience was also one of instability or a sense of instability, I didn’t feel strong and so stopped wearing shoes that had a heel on them as I felt I might fall.  It was like I had no or very reduced core strength. Even coughing caused discomfort. Internally I felt swollen and tender.  They were vague symptoms in many ways but things just didn’t feel right. It was the radiation oncologist that told me that I was probably quite swollen inside.

After my consultation at Wesley Hyperbaric, I was keen to start straight away.  Fortunately there was a position available. In the end I undertook the full 40 treatments.  That is 40 days (which is 2 months of having treatment every working day). Initially there was no improvement after the first 10 treatments but that is to be expected. Between 10-20 treatments I thought I felt more comfortable.  From 20 treatments on I knew I was improving.  Gradually less discomfort, no pain.

After 40 treatments I could get in and out of the car easily, not tentative to sit in a low couch anymore.  Improvement continued for months after the hyperbaric oxygen therapy finished so that within a couple of months I was back to wearing high heels!

The nurses in the chamber where lovely and very supportive. The sensation of being in the hood and the whole process takes about 10 treatments to get used to, so pleased I didn’t give up. As I came from a regional area I found myself driving almost every day to Wesley Hyperbaric. Although they had a train close by the times from my station were not frequent enough to make it in time (unless I got up at 5am), however I know others used a community bus.  The staff seem very knowledgeable about all the transport options.

I also would stay over and catch up with family and friends as well. The admin staff were very accommodating to ensure I was always booked into the second session of the day so that I wasn’t in a rush to get there and had plenty of time to get home (the nurses were saying that some Brisbane patients book into the first session which is early so they can go to work afterwards). Initially it was a drag as I had to give up working and my life during the week revolved around the treatment. I was a little used to this from my experience with chemotherapy and radiotherapy. However when I started to feel the improvements to my quality of life there was no way I’d miss a treatment!