Apr 16 2011
Well I made it (mostly) through the first week of radiation treatments.
The first visit is a consultation, which sounds nice and neutral but really isn’t, if you’re a radiation therapy patient in lots of pain. Scans and markings have to be taken in order to make sure your radiation is targeted correctly. These scans involve lying quite still on a hard metal table while they make little adjustments repeatedly. And did I mention the table motion is rather abrupt, more prone to jerk-stops than a smooth ride?
These facets and others were why I spent so much time in the hospital on the first treatment step, getting a manageable pain regimen for me in place. Since I can’t go around hooked up to an IV for the fastest-acting drugs longer-term, we had to find a combination of medications that would get me functional enough to begin radiation treatment (as well as allow me to go home). This took several days and a few ups and downs but we managed to find at least the start of what combo could work, with further alterations made outside of the hospital. During this time of course our new daughter was passing her daily scans with flying colors, having come through a potentially traumatic time for a premature fetus with no significant negative side effects. (More on her stuff in a different post later.)
I was discharged on a Thursday, and the original plan was to have the radiation consultation on Friday. My exercise up to this point had been short walks in the halls and moving around my room. I guessed that trying to get discharged from the hospital, manage the car ride home, another car ride to the oncology center, and whatever stuff needed to happen at the appointment was a bit much to do for one day. However, the Radiation Oncologist (RadOnc) with whom I am working wasn’t going to be available on Friday, and I decided to go ahead and do the consult on Thursday and take Friday as a rest day. (The other option being consult on Monday and begin treatment Tuesday, and I didn’t want to delay if it could be helped.)
That was a rough, rough decision. Thankfully we were there near the end of the work day, so I don’t think I scared off too many patients. It took a while to get through the scans as I was already in tears from pain when we arrived (see previously mentioned discharge, car travel, etc for reasons why). Everyone was very nice, in keeping with the amazing doctor trend we’ve encountered this time around, and quite patient with the slow pace. I started crying quite loudly when they laid me down on the CT scan table. They were able to give me a small bolster for under my knees, but due to the location of the hip tumor could not give me any more comfortable a position than that. The stretched-out position also pulled on the c-section area causing me to notice pain in that area for nearly the first time since surgery (otherwise that area’s discomfort was and is drowned out by the neural noise due to the tumors’ effects). I had to get up off the table and wait for them to give me an extra shot for pain relief before we were finally able to finish.
Radiation preparation involves creating space-age molds around your upper and lower body that they place on the table to hold you in the same position each time for treatment. They also mark on your body with permanent marker and little tegaderm-like waterproof stickers so that they can more quickly orient the machine each day to target the correct areas for treatment. Note: your own sweat will take off the marks even if you are very careful about not scrubbing them while showering and so on. For someone who had just given birth and is having hot flashes as hormones readjust, sweat was inevitable. I spent the weekend re-marking two of the lines they hadn’t put stickers on until we were able to fix them on Monday.
I finally made it through the prep and scans in a pain and tear-filled haze, then spent the rest of Thursday and most of Friday doing not much at all but attempting to recover from Thursday’s extra activity load. And since typing for too long causes its own discomfort these days, you’ll have to get the rest of week 1’s radiation story later; now it’s time for a rest and a snack.
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