As a proud cancer survivor, Christine chooses to live her life to the full; from completing the London Moonwalk marathon, to gallery exhibitions of her fine art oil paintings. She is passionate about Lifelong Learning and works hard in maintaining a high level of personal fitness. So, when Christine’s physical mobility and dexterity became compromised by Duputryen’s and Ledderhose disease, despite local medical solutions, she began her search for early intervention and preventative treatment to bring a halt to further progression.
This is Christine’s journey to successful radiotherapy treatment:
“In the past I had noticed unusual symptoms such as fragile fingernails, with strange red lines. These nail deformations were originally put down to either sports injuries, or the consequence of my working life teaching Biology and Chemistry.
By chance six years ago, I mentioned these observations to my GP who instantly diagnosed early-stage Dupuytren’s disease and referred me as a suitable candidate for a treatment study trialling Xiapex injections. This treatment did initially work for me, however my Dupuytren’s began to progress again, at this stage it was just my right hand.
Three years later, I elected to have surgery on my right hand to straighten my little finger and remove some thickening from my palm. I personally found this experience extremely traumatic, and ultimately, I was deeply unhappy with the result. Within just a few weeks of the surgery I started to notice lumps had appeared across the palms of both hands, coupled with extreme tenderness in both my hands and my left foot.
At my case review, I was told by my surgeon that my only option was to wait for the condition to become crippling before I would be eligible for dermofasciectomy surgery. When I asked about other options, they were dismissive about the use of further Xiapex injections or radiotherapy as alternative treatment options.
This news was devastating. I had just begun a one-year oil painting Diploma course in Norfolk. Whilst the disease was actively progressing, I had the physical challenge of being stood at an easel day each day holding a paintbrush, and a regular 4-hour drive to Norfolk.
Within just 4 post-operative months I was unable to walk any distance without pain (it felt like walking on glass or something hot, with a sharp stabbing pain), and my hands felt as though they had been stung by bees (sore, hot, and inflamed). The pain was immense, requiring painkillers, and my sleep pattern became very disturbed.
It was the culmination of these circumstances that triggered my online search for a medical solution. Luckily, I found an online support group where I could ask questions and get guidance. By chance, they were also running a Q&A session with Dr Richard Shaffer, discussing radiotherapy as a treatment option for Dupuytren’s and Ledderhose disease.
After the Q&A session I felt quite confident that radiotherapy could be a good treatment option for me. After doing further research on radiotherapy treatment, I booked a consultation with Dr Shaffer in Guildford.
When I first met with Dr Shaffer in March 2017, I was just 5 months post-surgery and very relieved that a consultation had been arranged so quickly. At this initial meeting Dr Shaffer identified nodules in both of my hands and my left foot. I was really shocked by the extent of my disease, which was even present in my finger joints. Following Dr Shaffer’s observations and diagnosis, a personalised radiotherapy treatment plan was made for me, starting in May 2017.
The radiotherapy treatment didn’t cause me any pain or side effects, and within weeks of my treatment I had seen an improvement in my condition. The nodules had shrunk, there was retraction of the arch of my left foot, and all that stabbing pain was gone. My fingernails have also returned to normal. But the biggest bonus by far was that all pain had gone, and I had good levels of movement and dexterity again.
This year I wanted to celebrate 10 years of living post-cancer with a new challenge. I chose to walk the 27.2 miles of the London Moonwalk marathon for Breast Cancer. I trained regularly for the event with regular treadmill work and long-distance weekend walks. This freedom to walk and return to physical fitness has enabled me to raise over a thousand pounds for charity.
Radiotherapy treatment has allowed me to continue to live my life as I always have done; physically fit and able to do whatever I want. My hands and my feet do not dictate my pace anymore. I truly believe radiotherapy has allowed me to enjoy my life to the full, and without pain. To me that is just wonderful!
This year I found some new nodules, but these didn’t cause me any pain at all. At my annual review a new radiotherapy programme was planned, and that is now completed. With continued care of my hands and feet, I am hoping that the disease will now remain dormant.”