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Posted on August 27, 2014

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20140821_100951I’ve officially made the transition from counting up the number of days I’ve had radiation treatments, to counting down the number of days remaining. That’s a pretty big deal.

…especially if you’re my insides.

My baseline of existence for the last few weeks has been squeezing waterfalls out of my backside to the point of headaches. …and sleeping.  That pretty much sums up my world. …oh, and washing my hands. I have had a handful of decent feeling morning hours in which I get some work done, answer emails, and take care of a couple other things that give me a sliver of normalcy to life. Physically, my cancer team has figured out how to manage nausea and keep my bathroom visits under double digits each day-a huge improvement.

The pain of my #2’s is still around, of which I found out the reason. Radiation manifests itself much like sunburns: irritated and sensitive red skin, peeling, which can progress to blisters. Though it took until now, week five, to sunburn my external grundle region, the same burn has been happening internally… the source of so much pain when I poop. As you may know, scraping fingernails down a sunburned back is not what it’s cracked up to be. That metaphor helps you understand what I’ve got happening up in me. Needless to say, I’m walking a little bow-legged these days.

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My view from the radiation table.

It never fails, when midafternoon hits, my body simply powers down. Like there’s some kind of internal switch that gets triggered sending me into robot power saving mode. I typically spend the remaining hours watching network television, which is painful enough just to watch without a chapped butt, before the twilight settles and I can find the relief of my bed. All in hopes of those few precious normal hours to happen the following day.

Though it’s not all bad. I’m currently sitting knee deep in the final week of my concurrent chemo/radiation (pre)treatments and I’m, well, as excited as one can be while undergoing radiation treatments. Though all the skin from my belly button to the small of my back is tender, red, and on the verge of glowing in the dark, knowing the end is near helps it all not hurt quite so bad.

This Monday marked a turn in my radiation plan, something I have been looking forward to for several weeks, which has lovingly been referred to as “the boost.” When the Dr. first outlined the plan for me, it went kind of like this, “we’re going to do some fancy things with your plan. I’ll zap everything from here to here, covering your rectum, lymph nodes, and a handful of other things to be safe. With the machine we have, I can keep it off of your bits and pieces, but we’ll certainly get what we need to. Then I’ll boost you up a couple times that last week to really hit that tumor hard.”

He had me at ‘boost.’ From day one, I’ve wanted to nuke this sonofabitch into the next galaxy, so I almost kissed the Dr. on his lips (I didn’t… just to clarify) when he said the word ‘boost’ before I even knew what it actually meant. I immediately pictured my Dr. as some kind of mad scientist, like Doc from Back to the Future, with his wacked-out hair and white coat, hunched over a knob on some space machine in the corner of the treatment room. He looks over his shoulder at me strapped to his table, eyes wide with eager anticipation. A mischievous smile creeps across his face as his fingers force the knob clockwise…

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Holding my man-purse as I get lined up.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), reality doesn’t often match what goes on in my head. The boost actually isn’t an increase of intensity of radiation, but more of a condensing of the same dose. The first five weeks called for a certain dosage of radiation spread across a larger field. The boost moves that same dosage squarely to the rectum. Then, the second boost condenses the dose squarely on the tumor itself. neither of these boosts involves a mad scientist that I know of, but who really knows what happens behind the lead walls?

That being said, my skin is probably at the peak of irritation right now and I will continue the pattern of side effects and fatigue for about two weeks after treatment ends. For right now, though, I’m pretty happy seeing the finish line of the first 1/3 of this adventure.

Then it’s time to set my sights on getting as healthy as possible for phase two: surgery.

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Posted in: Cancer