The Cancer Diaries, Part 18

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Radiation treatment, 2nd session

radiation machinery or linear accelerator (LINAC)Same process as the first one, albeit a little shorter time to get ready since I already knew what was expected of me, and what items to disrobe. No hiccups or delays. I lie down, get positioned by the therapists, then the bed moves back towards the machinery (the linear accelerator, or LINAC).
Like some hulking scifi machinery, the arms swivel, the X-ray panels extend, and they slowly rotate over my abdomen. their work done, these panels retract and the radiation machinery is positioned. It, too, rotates around me. And then it’s done, and the bed extends back into the room so I can dismount and get dressed. Took perhaps 15 minutes total. Stopped in the hospital atrium for a cup of coffee before driving home. Am on disc 10 of the 35-CD Don Quixote audiobook. Traffic was moderate, weather fair both ways.

No treatments over the weekend; next one on Monday. I can relax a bit, read, play computer games, watch movies, cook meals, and walk the dog with Susan. I’ll need to fill up the car sometime this weekend, but nothing else is pressing.

Radiation treatment, 3rd session

Easy drive in and out. Got my schedule for next week when I registered; same times as this week. Same process as before: the brief X-ray followed by the “rapid arc” zap, overview on Mondays after the session.

The hospital was running late, and didn’t get to see me until around 20-30 minutes later than scheduled. Which, with a full bladder, can be a long, fidgety time. However, I chatted for a short time with one of the ladies in the waiting room, and who also came from Collingwood.
After my treatment, I was shuffled into another waiting room to sit and read for 30 or so more minutes before a nurse came to get me. As usual, I brought books to keep me occupied. Three others in the waiting room, including two men my age or older, spent their time staring at their phones. Which simply looks sad and lonely. At least reading a book feels like I’m doing something positive and engaging with my mind.
The nurse took me down the hall to a separate exam room to discuss my treatment so far, although at this point I had little to say about any effects, so it was a short discussion. She mentioned what I might expect in future, but every patient is different, so I may not feel the same effects as some others.

We spoke about a few odds and ends like getting my bone scan results, possible side effects from the hormones later in the treatment, and making sure my diet had enough calcium because radiation can cause bone loss. Eschewed the coffee this time and drove straight back home. Am on disc 12 of the audiobook.

Dec 1: A considerable snowfall overnight and continuing with high winds through Tuesday made me worry about the drive under those conditions. Local streets were not cleared when I was ready, and I wasn’t sure about the highway or the more dangerous areas. I chose to postpone this treatment session and not risk the potentially challenging or dangerous drive. Winter driving here will present a challenge for me. Took my final Bicalutamide table today. No more hormones until the next Lupron shot, in 2021.

The oncologist called me today while I was shovelling snow. I wasn’t able to talk much, but she did tell me my scans all came back fine. I was relieved the cancer had not spread to my bones. I had a glass of wine later to celebrate. Okay, I had two, but only from the box. I am saving the best bottle for when I have finally finished my treatments. I finished reading John Le Carre’s Agent Running in the Field today.

Radiation treatment, 4th session

A few snowy/blowy stretches on the highway caused me to slow down, but it was a fairly easy drive after yesterday’s snowfall. Got there a little ahead of schedule. Had some time to chat with a couple of other patients in the waiting area, including an older woman from Collingwood I had spoken to previously. Most patients wait in silence, often avoiding eye contact, as if embarrassed by having others know they, too, have cancer. They stare at their phones a lot, which is a sad statement about our times.
Once again I was struck by the annoying lack of clocks, which forces people like me who don’t wear watches to dig out my phone to check the time. once out, there’s this compelling urge to check social media, email, etc.
Otherwise, it was the same procedure as the previous ones: the “rapidarc” fast in-and-out.  On disc 13 of the audiobook.
Started reading Charlie Stross’ The Atrocity Archives, and Edward St. Aubyn’s Dunbar today.

Radiation treatment, 5th session

Today and tomorrow, my appointments are 30 minutes later than previously. But next week my treatments get back on the previous schedule. Easy drive to and from the hospital, no hiccups in the treatment. Spoke to more people in the waiting room this morning, but not for long, and people went back to their phones; I to my book. One of the radiation therapists mentioned I might see some effects with my bowels and bladder by the second week.  I got into disc 15 of the audiobook. Chapter 42 or thereabouts. I’m trying to better gauge my water intake on these trips so I arrive with a full bladder, but not painfully so. I take a bottle with me to drink in the car, but don’t want to consume too much, too soon.

I might have had my first hormone-induced hot flash last night. I awoke sometime in the wee hours, feeling very hot, with heat radiating from my gut outwards. I kicked off the covers and pushed the dog away. It took a few minutes to subside, and I eventually went back to sleep. Sort of. My sleep is fitful at best these days. I never seem to get enough of it, at least not enough deep, uninterrupted sleep, these days.

Almost as soon as I got home, I had to take Susan to Owen Sound to see her specialist. A long day of driving. As a reward, she let me visit the used book store on the main street, where I bought two paperback books: Primo Levi’s The Periodic Table, and Sebastian Faulks’ homage to P. G. Wodehouse: Jeeves and the Wedding Bells. Susan came away with more books than I did, this time. 

Radiation treatment, 6th session

I was tired and off my feed today. I’d lost a bit of enamel on a tooth last night, and while it didn’t hurt, I couldn’t stop touching the ragged edge with my tongue, so it kept me awake for quite some time. And our new cat, Luna, decided it was perfectly comfy to sleep on my hip when I was lying on my side. But being young and restless, she got off and came back up again several times, each time awakening me. And, to ice the soggy MacArthur Park cake, the treatment seems to be affecting the regularity of my bowels, as I had been told it might, although I hadn’t expected anything this soon. Perhaps, if I’m lucky, it’s just some transitory effect from something I ate.

Because of the ragged bit of tooth, I didn’t risk my usual morning muesli, just ate a small container of yogurt and drank a cup of tea. By the time I was ready to drive to Barrie, I was far from eager: tired, grumpy, and sluggish. But the drive was okay, and the treatment went smoothly enough.

In the waiting area, I again spoke to the woman from Collingwood I previously mentioned; we’ve seen each other almost daily and she’s quite chatty with me. I recognize others, despite the ubiquitous masks, who are there every day. There’s a gong in the reception area for people to hit when they finish their treatment, but I have yet to hear anyone ring it.

I barely got to read a few paragraphs in my Murakami novel before I was taken into the treatment room.

Music is piped into the treatment room, although the whirr of the machinery and the susurrus of the ventilation tends to muffle it. I thought it was just piped through the hospital’s PA system; generic sounds, but it turns out that, at least in the room I use, it’s coming from a therapist’s Spotify account. I have been able to pick my own music for the last two sessions, which, even if only for about 10 minutes, is a nice touch. Yesterday I listened to some Bach, today I heard some Miles Davis. I’ll ask for Pink Martini next week. I asked if there was any Firesign Theatre in the lists, and saw many. Not something to listen to during treatment because the audio feed would be difficult to hear clearly, but it makes me consider subscribing to the service.

I wonder again how the therapists, technicians, doctors, and nurses can keep up their pleasant, helpful, supportive presence. I really admire their strength, because I’m not sure I wouldn’t be overwhelmed in the face of so many little tragedies and suffering. I would be emotionally wrung dry by the end of each day.

Nothing more for the weekend, and back again on Monday morning. I’m into disc 17, which I believe is Chapter 49.

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One Reply to “The Cancer Diaries, Part 18”

  1. Bless you. Namaste.

    I have seen these posts on Progressive Bloggers, and never clicked. You know, “I can’t bear it.”

    In fact, with mg PTSD, I can’t bear much. A fact I’m finally coming to grips with.

    But, I am hoping, and praying, for peace for you.

    Thank you for keeping us with you!

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