Transitioning from chemotherapy to radiation

Just keep swimming - Tanya Gouthro
Just keep swimming - Tanya Gouthro
Just keep swimming - Tanya Gouthro
Just keep swimming – Tanya Gouthro

THUNDER BAY – I’m on a bit of a break right now, transitioning from chemotherapy to radiation. I am doing my best to get really active, to get out in the fresh air and reconnect with my physical self that has been so sedentary for so many months. On the muddy paths at Centennial Park yesterday I found myself shouting to my two promenading partners that I wished I could explain to them in a way that would make them understand just how AMAZING it felt to have sore muscles from working them out, as opposed to being still on a couch, not having moved at all.

[sws_pullquote_right]Tanya Gouthro is a current cancer patient who has graciously agreed to share her cancer journey with us. Her column will be featured regularly. [/sws_pullquote_right]

To feel shaky quads after a long downhill sprint, or burning hamstrings after pushing my way up a rocky, root-riddled hill. To feel out of breath after 8 km, not a flight of stairs. I am celebrating these aspects of finishing with chemotherapy. I have paddled, gone swimming and reconnected with my bones and muscles in just about every way I know how. Fall is a beautiful time to do this. I am trying, in a sense, to ‘walk it off’. I want to put some serious distance between myself and chemotherapy. I’ve been clocking my distances every day, and there is something almost poetic about increasing that distance week by week. It almost convinces me that I’m leaving cancer behind. 


Radiation is next, and I have my tattoos to prove it’s coming – four little permanent freckles that neatly divide my torso in four, so that the radiation folks can line me up properly each time I visit the ‘spa’, which will be five days a week for five weeks. My understanding is that these sessions will be short and sweet but precise and (hopefully) effective at stopping any hopeful hangers-on of the cancerous variety from taking any kind of trip through my body. Radiation seems, like chemotherapy, to be a safety net of sorts. 

It struck me today, as I saw my favourite oncologist for the last time until December, that in about six weeks, my safety nets will be gone. As much as I hated the side effects of chemotherapy, it sure felt good to know that there was a drug traveling through my system actively battling this disease. It will be reassuring to know that radiation is targeting the worrisome lymph nodes. 

After this is done, when I have completed treatment, what then? The reality is a little harsh. In six weeks, I will have ‘done all I can’ in terms of treatment. I have treated it aggressively and made difficult decisions and taken every measure to ensure that the Cancer was removed from my body, and, medically, this is all I can do. This reality is one I hadn’t considered until now, as I near the end of my regular visits to the Cancer Centre. I will be followed up, there will be blood work and appointments, but really – there’s a huge leap of faith I will have to take as I move towards getting on with my life after cancer. I didn’t know how to ‘do’ cancer before my diagnosis, and now I really don’t know if I know how NOT to. I kind of think it’ll follow me around for awhile, like an annoying horsefly in the middle of a beautiful sun-drenched swim.

I just have to keep swimming and hope I shake it.

Tanya Gauthro

To learn more about Tanya, follow her blog at

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