Hi Andrea. Was great to read your positive attitude towards your forthcoming treatment. Keep it up!!
I can only offer you my personal experience. I also have children, 2 girls 9 & 7 & a son 2 yrs old at the time of my surgery/treatment. I was also worried about how I would look and how it would impact on what I could do for my children as they didn't know (and still dont) that I had cancer.
My treatment involved 5wks daily Radiotherapy/5xChemo(Cisplatain) & 1 Brachy. My apprearance never changed during the treatment at all and thankfully the type of Chemo they use for cc doesn't make you lose your hair (except in v.rare cases) The only external change was a small darkening of my skin at the base of my spine from the Radiation. Plus I lost all my pubic hair (not such a problem) but it did come back! I didn't much like having to use simple soap during treatment but I continued to use my normal washing products on the other areas of my body. I also defied them by continuing to shave and bath during treatment although I didn't soak for long. Within a week you will be completely used to the Radiotherapy and you will be in and out of the actual treatment without much thought. The machine can get warm and is really noisy but its really quick too and there are beautiful light pictures on the ceiling to look at!
Wear lose clothing which is easy to get on and off and slip on shoes, it just means you dont have to hang around any longer than necessary!!
I asked for my appointments to be booked around lunch time so I could get the children to school and get back before they finished and apart from a couple of days this was possible. The only down side with this is that it ties up your entire day. One thing to consider is that on most days there are delays with the machines and I often had over an hour wait for my 10 min appointment!
I started treatment being very healthy and eating well. By week 2 I was craving chocolate. My clinical onc told me to go with whatever I felt like during treatment. At this stage in the game its all about just getting through the treatment and out the other side however you can. As it turned out I really suffered with bowel issues and cramping due to radiation and so I had to adopt a low fibre diet which is quite common so the fruit and veg was out anyway!
Im not too needle phobic so the chemo was 'ok' although by the end I was fed up with being pricked. Make sure they soak your arm in warm water first to bring up your viens as some nurses didn't do this and it makes it harder to find a good vein as the weeks go on. Week 5 took them 4 attempts and they ended up using the underside of my wrist! Also ask for a heat pad to put on your arm as the drips make your hands go really cold. Bring a lose cardi or shawl to put over your arm too and slippers if you really want to chill out! This keeps it much more comfortable. Plus just to warn you (as I wasn't) there are 4 bags used for the chemo, 1 fluid which usually takes an hour then a short 10 min drip which is AGONY. Aparantly its because the molecules are quite large so they hurt going through your veins. Thankfully it is only for 10 mins. You then have the Chemo drip followed by another hour of fluid. Make sure you drink loads as they cant give you your Chemo drip until you have measured some substantial fluid 'output'.
As life with 3 young children is hectic I actually found having Chemo days a good opportunity to relax. Also up to the point of treatment it was such a whirlwind of worry and stress that it gave me time just to chill out and process things. I intended on reading up and catching up on the piles of MacMillan books I had been given at diagnosis which had sat in the bottom of my bag! In truth I induldged in a pile of trashy magazines and just let myself do nothing for a while. I would recommend you give the Radiation book a quick glance over though and another really good book I found was The Cancer Journey by Polly Noble. She also has a good website. It is a really practical self help book for getting through treatment and was written by 3 cancer patients who have all gone through it.
Overall I would say it isn't that bad and its really towards the end that I started with quite bad radiation blisters which made going to the toilet is excrutiating. But then I also had a radical hysterectomy 4 wks prior to the start of treatment so I think I had the worst of both. They do help you deal with any side effects and can give you all sorts to dont be afraid to make a nuisance of yourself and ask ask and ask again if you dont get help first time. I personally didn't get any sickness at all and didn't have to take my anti-sickness pills during the week but everyone is different.
Practically I would get as much help around the house as possible and sleep as much as possible. I have never asked for help before so I found it really difficult but the way I saw it, I had to give the treatment the best chance of working as I needed to be well for my children. So I took everything I could get and essentially put my feet up for the next few months. I was lucky as my mother in law took early redundancy when I was diagnosed. She basically stepped straight into my shoes and I had to let her. She arrived every monring at 7am and got the kids to school, did all the housework, cooking, shopping, drove me to the hospital every day, picked the kids up, did homework, did dinner then left at 7pm once they were in bed. She was amazing and all I had to do was get through it and get well. This also meant that my husband (who is self employed) could just get on with his work and looking after me. I know that not everyone may have a mother in law like me (practically perfect in every way) but you will be surprised who is there for you when you need them most so dont be afraid to ask. I would also recommend planning things for the weekends with the family. It is heaven on a Saturday and Sunday to have a break in treatment and it helps if you have things to look forward to, even if it is just going for a walk or to visit friends. Just keep a focus on something you enjoy doing as some days will inevitably be mentally tough. Also get into a good t.v series. I think you can hire entire series from Blockbusters these days and good knows you will need some escapism most days or nights. Gavin & Stacey kept me company through the night on most nights as I couldn't sleep. The trouble with resting when you need to is that your sleep pattern is all over the place. Plus the obvious long term worries tend to stop your brain from switching off when the house is all quiet and there is nothing or no-one left to occupy you!
The other thing my Clinic Onc recommended to get me through treatment was to take up Yoga. Before diagnosis, I did ballet twice a week, was running 30k a week in training for a half marathon and swam most days but surgery and treatment meant I wasn't doing anything. I wish I had listened to him! I am now so stiff with the Radiotherapy that just getting up and down out of my chair makes me feel like im 90yrs old! It has left me really really stiff and I cant do a lot of things now like kneel on the floor with my kids or sit with crossed legs as my hips and joints ache. I dont know if it is the same for everyone but I wish I had kept myself supple. My oncologist said that there were studies to prove that patients who use yoga do increase their recovery rates and do get through treatment a lot better. The only other exercise he said I could do was walking which is also good for your head. My treatment was during the winter as is yours, so going outside itsn't always possible if the weather is horrible but he suggested walking around a big indoor shopping mall instead. Aparantly its all the rage in America where people do laps!!
Lastly, as treatment can cause bladder problems like cistitus (?) etc, try and drink cranberry juice or I hear cherry juice is good plus lots of water to keep your bladder healthy during treatment.
Anyway, am probably boring you stupid with all this rambling so I will leave it there. I hope that you find maybe one thing helpful but if not then someone else on the forum may be able to add something or offer an alternative experience to mine which may help you.
Good luck & give it all you've got. You sound very strong and positive and we are all here for you for when you're not.
Take care, Lu.x