Bill’s Tale of Two Cancers #13

Compared with the lead-up to everything else so far the preparation for radiation therapy was quite simple. After getting my tatoo to mark the site on my back the radiation therapist would be aiming the machine at, all that was required was to rest up and get some strength back, as the effects of the therapy would be accumulative. Normally the doctors like to give a person three months or so in between chemotherapy and radiation treatments, but in my case they wanted to be aggressive in order to lessen the odds of any recurrance of the cancer and to maximize the effects of the both treatments by giving me a turn around time of 5 – 6 weeks, so I used the time between to get used to the rhythms of daily life and to begin walking a bit further each day to get ready for what was to come.

Talk about nice.

After all the running around and hospital time of the previous four months, not to mention the eight months before, being at home doing normal things and hanging out with my family again felt as good as you can imagine and then some. And it gave me the first glimpse of life after the treatments were finally over.

And as the weeks passed I began to get both anxious and eager for the radiation treatments to begin so that I could get all this over with and get on with the rest of my life, whatever that might be.

Once the time for treatments began our lives had to accommodate yet another medically determined timetable, and once again the doctors and technicians proved themselves to be amazingly considerate of me and my family as people dealing with a disease while trying to keep leading our lives, to the point where all of my treatments were booked so that I could arrive and depart from Toronto within a two hour window between buses arriving from and going to Peterborough, allowing me to make the trips with minimal impact on our life as a family. Not to mention reducing the stresses that could have been present had they not been able to arrange my appointments so effectively.

And as simple as that sounds, it really helped, because in addition to the actual treatments there was a fair bit of effort involved in getting to and from them each day. You see, the schedule went like this…for four weeks I was to recieve radiation therapy each day from Monday to Friday, for a total of twenty treatments. Which involved walking about a mile to the bus station in Peterborough for the ride to Toronto (1 hr 45 min), another walk of about 1/2 mile and then getting the treatment before the return trip home. It doesn’t sound like much, and it didn’t sound like much to me then, but I seriously underestimated the toll this would take on my still weak body after a couple of weeks.

On the ride back from Toronto on a trip in the middle of the third week of treatments, almost out of the blue, I cracked.

Without knowing why and without a trigger I began to cry, quietly at first, but with increasing force as it continued. I tried to figure out why I was so bent out of shape but couldn’t connect it to anything in any linear, rational way, and I was thinking that I’d endured much more fatigue and discomfort through most of the time I’d spent in the care of my oncologists, so in addition to this sudden burst of tears I felt an embarrassment at my display of apparent selp pity in such a public and enclosed place as a Greyhound bus. And I just kept on crying until I got home, where it continued and where Caroline, bless her heart, figured out what was going on and went into action.

First she told me that I was finally just letting go of some of the basic trauma that had been going on for the past year and change, and that it was probably a combination of being wiped out from the latest round of treatments and travel that had pushed my emotional response to this outcome. And I figured out that I made the basic mistake of letting down my guard because I could see the “finish line” that the end of treatments represented.

So Caroline called her brother, Greg, and together they came up with a brilliant plan that had Greg picking me up from my treatment the next day, us hanging out at his place in Toronto, him taking the next two days off of work to ferry me back and forth to Peterborough after that day’s appointment and then taking me back for the final treament of the week. Again, it seems so simple, and yet that change of plans worked like magic to lift my spirits and get me ready for the final week of treaments. If it weren’t for Caroline’s love and quick thinking and Greg’s equally tender care, I don’t know if I’d been able to face the final week and a half of radiation sessions.

But once again, the love of my family gave me the gumption to keep going.

Up next : Time to party !

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~ by Rocky Green on June 5, 2008.

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