Thursday, August 8, 2013

Musings from the Radiation Chapter

I have now completed four sessions of my new full time job - the 2013 radiation project. In case some of you aren´t familiar with the whole radiation dealio (or rads if you are more intimately acquainted with it), I can fill you in.

So radiation is meant to be the final clean up act following chemo and should kill off the cancer cells that were weakened by chemo. That is definitely my preferred game plan and I try to channel it by whispering during every rads session, "Die cells, die!" God I hope they are listening. The thing about rads is that the actual process of lying down on a very uncomfortable table resembling a spinal board and having this radiactive beam shot at you is completely painless. I still half expect to feel some kind of pain when the huge ass machine starts wizzing around me and I can almost visualise this bright yellow beam reaching into my chest wall seeking out the enemy. But of course radiation is invisible. The process for me is 25 sessions every day with the exception of weekends. So you see - it really is like a full time job and equally as exhausting. One of the main side effects of rads is fatigue so naps become daily protocol. I found myself feeling quite anxious about it all when I showed up on Monday for round 1 as I felt kinda in the dark about the whole thing. The last time i did this, I felt prepared and my network had informed me of what to expect, how to treat side effects and what would happen longer term. But this round 2 (similar to my chemo regime) was uncharted territory as my doctor said. They genuinely couldn´t really tell me what would happen and we would have to deal with things as they came. The radiation tech gave me a mini anxiety attack by telling me that we would need to see how things go and if I started to develop open sores we would have to consider stopping. Awesome! Welcome to leprosy island folks. There is so much worry in this game and I hate not knowing what will happen and pondering all the possible scenarios. And you know what? There is this screen on the ceiling in the rads room that lights up when the machine is on and goes dark when it´s off. The scene on the screen is straight out of the rainforest filled with lush greenery. I am guessing this tranquil scene is meant to distract and relax you however I could not help but notice that a number of leaves had burn marks on them. It made me think of my own skin sizzling under the radiation beams and definitely didn´t leave me feeling at peace. Now it is all i can focus when I am lying there every single day...burning. Oh the places our minds go.

So as I continue to get the job done, my mind is already focusing on the future and what will happen next. The plan is to finish the radiation, wait three months and do another PET. That scan feels so ominous to me and holds so much hope and fear tangled all together. I want to believe it will be okay and that I will be free from this monster but I find it so hard to think that way when everything has gone so terribly wrong. In the last two and half years every time we have been given two possible outcomes, we always have ended up with the worst one. When will our luck change? I seriously need about a million four leaf clovers, a thousand horse shoes and a pot of gold at the end of my rainbow. Do you think they deliver? :) It just all feels so final right now - we have done everything we can again and now we have to wait and see what happens. There is so much helplessness in the situation and so much fear. I am so damn scared of that monster under the bed. That it wont disapear when I turn on the lights again.



  1. I recognize all the difficult feelings you're experiencing at the moment. I have no advice that will make them go away for good, but we have to try not to let them take over our minds. Easy, right? Or not... I hope you won't get any serious complications from the radiation. And I hope you'll be able to enjoy the next three months before the PET. Just let me know if you want to meet up someday:)

  2. Dear OBB, I have no solutions, no magic wand, no way to ease your fear or sense of helplessness.

    The feelings you are expressing sound absolutely, positively NORMAL to me — and I think you could use a little NORMAL right now! So that is what I am offering today. A big, huge stamp with block letters: N.O.R.M.A.L.

    I know that doesn't change a thing, but cancer takes so much of our "normal" away that sometimes the best feeling in the world is to realize that what we are feeling is similar to so many people. Even though what you are feeling doesn't feel good, it is normal.

    normal. Normal. NORMAL!
    OBB is very NORMAL!
    And OBB is not alone.
    not alone. Not Alone. NOT ALONE!

    I hope this made you smile. :-)
    PS Tell the rads place you want a new rainforest photo. Better yet, bring them an image you love to look at and ask that they replace the "fried" rainforest with your image. xoxo

  3. I can understand and relate with your feeling as you lied down on the spinal-board bed, staring at the ceiling and wandering with the bright yellow radiation beam reaching your chest. Kate,there's nothing I can help to calm down your fear and discomfort except to share the following little nasty experience of mine with you.

    On July 31, my doctor sent me to the Royal Columbia Hospital for a bone scan because of some persistent pain on my right foot. I was terrified as the nurse injected intravenously the Tc-99 MDP radiation into my body. Worse of all, since I had a history of cancer, the technician said I have to do a whole body bone scan instead of just a local right foot scan. I felt so discriminated and hurt -- all because I was a cancer patient before?! I objected and refused to have my whole body scanned. I feared that what IF they found something suspicious? An unknown shadow of some kind in the bones? I don't want to be on the "chopping board" and let them dictate. I began to panic. I asked to see the radiologist. Then I told him my fear, he was very sympathetic and understanding. After some explanation, he respected my choice and granted my request to just do a bone scan on my foot. The result came out two days ago and it turned out that the stress fracture and hyperemia which have caused so much pain is an early sign of stress-induced arthropathy --arthritis in the MTP and TMT joints. "Thanks God, no cancer return. You spare my life again Lord! Thank YOU!" Tears were in my eyes as I uttered these words. So Kate, I definitely understand your fear. I felt so bad for you each time you write about your helplessness, discomfort, pain, suffering and fear in your blog. All I can say is: keep trusting yourself, your oncologist and medical team. Maintain a good health by eating nutritiously and strengthen your immune system, especially after the chemo treatment and even now when you are on radiation. Have plenty of rest.

    I am now sending you now the imaginary " a million four leaf clovers, a thousand horse shoes and a pot of gold", accompanied with Faith, Hope, Luck and lots of Love. (Sorry I am not that computer-literate as to download images and clip them to be included in this response).

    Be patient dear, what you hope and need will come to you at the end of the RAINBOW. Continue to stay strong, take time to enjoy life with your loved ones. You will be fine!

    Hugs and Prayer