Uranium – The Gift that Keeps on Giving…
Here’s the thing – if you see me right after my brachytherapy, you would think, hey, that doesn’t seem to be a big deal. Especially today, because I was pretty stoked after treatment and meeting with my treatment coordinator – but then I get home, and slowly, slyly, stealthily I start to feel icky. I go from being perky and motivated to a cranky, gassy slug who wants to sleep but can’t. So yeah, I’m sitting here nursing a Reed’s Extra Ginger Ginger Beer and hoping some bloggity blogness will help me get so exhausted that I fall asleep with the lap top on my knee. Or not, because some times when that happens I jolt myself out of sleep to catch it before it falls. This poor lappy only has one working USB port and there’s no cash in the budget for a new one. Not yet anyway.
Ah…is the sound in the distance that I hear gunfire or fireworks.? I know it’s Pi Day, but I didn’t know Pi Day involved explosions…
Back to business. Right now I am enjoying the special crampiness and general lethargy and nausea that I felt this time last week. This will pass in a day or two, and I really have no right to complain, because I think I got through this fairly easily…and I am about to have a break for two weeks, so stop whining, woman!
I know, I know, you’ve been waiting for me to recant for the wonders of brachytherapy. Well wait no more lovelies. I am about to hold you spellbound as I spin the tale… As most of my stories have these last months, (Vagina warning) it involves a vagina, and some details that may not be for the squeamish. I sit here now thinking…I am writing a public blog about my vagina, have I no shame? Well, once you enjoy the tale of brachytherapy, you will realize that this is some of the least embarrassing coverage my body has had in the last two weeks. But I forget that you gentle readers are waiting for me to reveal my experience…so I will delay no more.
Last Wednesday was the first treatment. Brachytherapy is an internal radiation treatment, as opposed to the great five weeks I had with Nigel, my Trilogy II machine, which was external radiation. Indeed, the uncomfortable vulnerability of external radiation would have felt like being in a safe house compared to brachytherapy. You see, like chemo, it tricks you into thinking it’s gonna be no big thing and then…out of nowhere, you suddenly find yourself exposed and at the mercy of your treatment team. I’d like to pause here for a second to acknowledge that I have had a great treatment team – every one from the receptionist to the doctor have been kind, compassionate, sensitive and respectful, However, that doesn’t mean that this treatment is not the most uncomfortable experience for both my emotional and physical well-being.
It goes like this…
I have to go through the changing-into-a gown ritual. I choose the cow room to change in. It’s my go-to room. Familiar. Not too big, not too small, just the right size. I didn’t know if I was supposed to have a full bladder for this adventure or not, so I erred on the side of caution and drank my usual water. No tortuous blood pressure ritual. I get ushered right into the exam room. Dr. J comes in with my nurse Debbie, who is sweet and comforting, and the new intern, and the other nice Dr. who will do the measuring. Dr. J explains that he like to do the measuring in the exam room because it is more comfortable for me, the patient, than it would be in the CAT scanning room. None of this is comfortable…not the forceps, not the exam, not the having to have five different people hover around my nether regions, all the while hearing things like “try the largest size you can, so we can get a tight fit” and “should I make it longer?” You see, the other Dr. has the exciting task of creating the “cylinder” that will deliver the radiation to my vagina. Which has to be created and sized first. In other words, a cold plastic tower made of something like lego bricks will be uncomfortable fitted inside me. Yay!
Well, we get a nice fit, and I…nope, I don’t get to get dressed…get to go from the exam room to the CAT scanner again. Much to my delight, it now has stickers for my amusement. Spongebob. Patrick. that snail. YAY! Of course, now the lego is going back into place, and my legs are all pushed around and there’s this metal holder thing with a plate that gets slid under me, and clamps and screws and another 5 people involved, and well, as you might imagine, it is incredible fun! Then I get to go through the meat slicer machine that as you know, has little to do with cats, and they take tons of pictures. Eventually, the ride is over and everything that was so carefully assembled is taken down, and I get to go sit in the waiting room while they look at the scans and plan where the medical grade uranium will get to nuke me. I do get to pee now, whew!
So it’s off to the waiting room to wait and wait and wait. I’ve been violated in a manner typically reserved for women seeking an abortion in Virginia, except instead of friendly transvaginal ultrasound wand, I get a lego silo. No, this is isn’t over yet, and it actually gets even more rewarding…I get to sit in the waiting room and listen to an older man describe to Alex, my old radiation therapist that he could not wait to have “a number 2” so he also had to urinate. So now he needs to drink some water and hang out in the corral for about 15 minutes. Does he sit quietly? NOOOOO…he decided to regale me and another poor female captive with the very graphic details of his prostatectomy, and further, the details of his recover and how painful it was, and how “swollen everything down there was” and his difficulties with bowel movements in the recovery period. I wanted to politely say how many staples did the give you buddy? Did they remove an alien baby from you? huh? did they? But then I tried to remember that he may not have anyone to talk to or he may need to talk about it to process it, blah blah blah. Unfortunately for us, Alex came to get him after only 15 minutes.
Finally, I was summoned out of the pen. I was ushered into a new room. A new machine, and Dr. Ting and his geiger counter. Yes, I said geiger counter. Apparently there is some sort of rule that you can’t bring your own radioactive materiels into the treatment with you. Or eat a bunch of bananas, which apparently have natural radiation in them. I hop up on the table. There are no stickers, there are no lights, and the table is not as wide, so when they put my legs in the cushy blue leg holders, they feel like they will slip off the table. It was kinda cold, so the nice nurse, and Sherry the other therapist, got me heated blankets to snuggle under. It does not excuse the reinvasion of my body, but it does keep me distracted as they reassemble the robot arm contraption that will hold the lego steady inside me. It gets hooked up to the radiation shooter, and then everyone leaves the room. Well, except me.
Then…the huge lead door starts to close on its own. Whoa…creepy. I hear it lock. I’m now sealed in a huge vault room. I mean sealed. Eventually there’s clicking and the lego shakes a little as the radiation gets shot into me. More clicking, more radiation. And then in about 10 minutes, the last 2.5 hours of preparation and humiliating sizing and fitting are all for 10 minutes, it’s over. The door clicks, and starts to open slowly on its own. Like something in a vampire movie, which is kind of cool, but also creepy. Back in comes Dr. Ting and the geiger counter. He gives the all clear and the team returns to breakdown the torture device and get me out of there. Finally. It’s over, or at least until this week.
This week I only had to go through the last part. Except my machine was broken when I arrived this morning. So since my appointment was later than the usual morning radiation club…I had to sit with new people. So much whining because apparently Nigel was broken too. I understand the frustration, but for jiminy cricket’s sake, life is way too short to whine so much. I could have waited for hours except for the whining. Finally, Debbie came to get me. And it was on! A repeat of the procedure even Dr. J called “barbaric” and said wasn’t much more advanced than when Marie Curie injected people with needles full of radiation. In fact, another name for brachytherapy is Curietherapy. Only this time, there was more clamping and I have bruises on my inner thighs from the clamps. Not because it was super uncomfortable, but because I am bruising much easier these days. But now it was over. I can say that I am going to miss the therapists because they were so kind to me, but I will still see Dr. J and Debbie, but NO MORE RADIATION THERAPY…INTERNAL OR EXTERNAL. I AM DONE!!!! YAY!!
Of course, you think that this ends today’s events…but wait! if you act now there’s more…I want to share one more story with you, free! You see, Sunday, as I was innocently pinning away on Pinterest…my cell rang. It was my treatment coordinator, who wanted to check to see when I last had blood tests. She wanted to get me a slip right away, and have me go tomorrow. I told her I would be there on Wednesday, and she said well good, because there were some things she wanted to go over with me and would prefer to not do it over the phone and she would have me see the Dr. So she said just come by after your treatment. I was still a little stunned that she was calling me on a Sunday afternoon, that I didn’t think to ask why she couldn’t tell me over the phone, so I spent the last three days worrying about it. Why would you call on Sunday and why did you want to talk to me about things in person? Cue lack of sleep and concentration.
I went over to Hope Dr. to her office after treatment. A nurse who didn’t even tell me her name took me back to an exam room. Finally Ann came in to see me (for those of you who understand the significance, she’s a hugger) and all she needed to see me for was to review my treatment plan for the next round of chemo and to have me complete my “quality of life” surveys. Next round of chemo starts April 2, and looks like it will be a blast! I have to take 2 – 5 tablet doses of a steroid called Decadron (which sounds like the name of Transformer, or a character in the cartoon ReBoot) before chemo, and then go for a shot of Nueblasta the next day, which sounds like a name for a nerf gun. It’s gonna be a blast…AND I forgot to tell you the best news of all my pretties! I have a prescription for..wait for it…ready? A WIG! So look to see my bald head in an area near you… because I don’t know that I will be getting one.
Any way…more about the next chemo later. I may even take this down time to blog a bit about politics, and pop culture to shake things up. Right now I am going to try and lie down, because the tummy is not pleased with me now, and I’m going to be wearing a path from bedroom to bathroom and back all night. Ugh. Sleep well my pets, I wish I could…and please excuse spelling and grammar errors…I am feeling too icky to edit. Peace!