For those of you following my “Dealing with Prostate Cancer” epistles, this is the continuing saga. As I left off, we were relating how I was getting setup for therapy. Now I have actually started it and have had three sessions already. (Only 32 more to go!) So, Monday, April 2nd ( the day AFTER April Fools day) I showed up at The Hartford Gray Cancer Center at 11:00 to talk to Terry, the radiation nurse. What a nice person! Terry is one of those great people who is always happy. Guess you need to be that way in this business or you will not survive. While I was waiting, I talked to some of the other patients who I think were just about finished with therapy. They sounded like old friends but I knew they just met here at the radiation station. Guess you really get to know the folks that are scheduled near your time. I actually am scheduled for 7:15 AM so I will not see these folks again.
Terry turned me over to the zap girls that actually run big V. (I’ll remember their names after a few more visits especially since they are both good lookin!) Oh, forgot to explain that big V is the zapping machine. It is fairly imposing and is made by the Varian corporation so I started calling it Big V! I was ushered through an 8 inch thick door (that was a bit scary) and led over to the table.
Meeting Big V
That’s when I saw Big V. Talk about your monsters. Here’s a picture from Varian’s brochure so you can get an idea. Anyway, the girls helped me onto the table and I wondered how loud the machine would be when it started up. The cast that had been made was waiting for me so I snuggled my legs into it. The girls were chattering away and telling me each thing they were going to do. That made me feel a whole lot better. They used the three tattoo dots I had received earlier to line me up with the cool looking lasers. They are obviously experts at this since they only tugged at me a bit here and there and said, “That’s perfect!”
So then they left! Well, not before they told me what was going to happen. They also had some smooth jazz playing in the background (my favorite) so I felt fairly comfortable. Then, they told me not to worry as they were going to watch me on CCTV (Closed Circuit Television for you newbies,) and listen to me over a mike. They actually talked to me as the machine started up. They had given me a small towel so I had something to hang onto and to keep my hands up on my chest out of the way. They told me that now the camera would come out and sure enough two large components swung out to take images of my interior. This process is called image guided radiation therapy and this was the image guided part. I think the computer matches up the images with the machine because I felt a couple of small twitches as the table I was lying on did about a millimeter jog to the left and a millimeter jog towards my feet. Talk about precision. Then the camera paddles went back to their original positions and Big V started to turn.
Positioning Big V
I knew from the consult with the doc that there was going to be 5 different positions of beam therapy. The doc had zeroed in on the two clips left over from my surgery. He told me that he was going to aim the five shots between my bones and sure enough, Big V automatically swung all the way around until he was directly under my back side. Then a couple of red lights came on and I heard a tiny, almost imperceptible buzz. That was it! How disappointing. I expected a big winding up sound like a jet engine or the zapping van de graphs you see in the Frankenstein movies and all I got was Bzzt. That was all I heard. (Hey, this isn’t so bad.) Then Big V rotated 30 degrees and took the first angle shot. Another small bzzt. Maybe 10 seconds was all for each shot? Then another two rotations and bzzts and the girls are coming through the door saying that’s it, your all done. I think the whole thing took no more than 10 minutes from start to finish. I’m putting my pants back on and I’m going to talk to Terry about side effects.
Terry tells me that as I get closer to the end of the treatments, I could experience more urgency to go tinkle and possibly more frequent bowel movements. She says I should keep some Imodium on hand. She says it may feel like hemorrhoids so treat it just like you would that. Also that I may get tired but to not change my diet right away. I should eat more protein because we are killing both good and bad cells and the good cells need protein to rejuvenate. I ask her if I could eat pasta and she says sure! Oh boy! Thinking ahead, I put an extra change of clothes in the car along with one of those hospital urinal jugs. (I figure I can always pull over on the way back to work if I get disparate.)
Tuesday, April 3d, and I’m dragging myself into the therapy suite at 6:45. I’m already getting into a routine, changing into the scrub pants, and locking up my stuff in the locker they so conveniently provided. I get to say high to a couple of the early bird patients like me but I’m number two. The guy in front of me is Henry and he is scheduled at 7:00 a.m. The neat thing about coming in so early is that you don’t have to valet the car and I don’t miss any work. It is a bit painful to have to drive all the way into Hartford and then when I’m finished, all the way back down South on 91 to go to work. But hey, I guess I’m fortunate enough to be that close to a major treatment center.
The girls come and get me and away we go. It seems like a lot shorter time this time and before I know it I’m done and on the way to work.
It’s Wednesday night and so far so good. I am now at 32 treatments left to do and counting down. No sluggishness yet or problems with the bowels. That’s about it but as the treatments continue and anything new shows up, I’ll be back here to write about it. I hope this blog helps a few folks who are somewhat fearful of this kind of treatment. If you want to leave a comment about your experiences that may be different, I will be happy to post it. Take care,