Tuesday, 16 July 2013
The main thing that strikes fear into my heart about the bone marrow transplant is the radiotherapy. It's probably because I've never had it before and because I know too much for my own good. I don't remember ever feeling like this before I had chemotherapy three years ago. I have, and still do, view chemotherapy as less potent than radiotherapy. The type of chemotherapy I had for the Hodgkin Lymphoma had the so called promise of minimal long term side effects attached to it. Radiotherapy, on the other hand, will have long term side effects that can manifest now or several years down the line. I wont bore you with all the consequences of radiotherapy now, instead, I'll let you google it for yourself so you can have the pants scared off you that way. Radiotherapy is the sort of thing that keeps you looking over your shoulder. As morbid as it sounds, I do feel that when the time comes for me to die, however many years that may be, it will be because of a side effect of the radiotherapy; but for now, I am allowed to cheat death, at least for a little while. But it is a peculiar feeling; knowing that the choice I'm making now is potentially going to be the death of me. I guess, we've all gotta die somehow, I would personally opt for an instantaneous death but I don't really have a choice in the matter.
Today, I had my test dose of radiotherapy. They give you a test dose so that they can observe the amount of radiation absorbed at different points on your body. They do this so that they can prescribe the correct dose of radiation for when the time comes for me to have my treatment dose. The dose they gave me today was tiny which meant that I didn't feel any effect of it. Although, I do have a headache which could either be psychosomatic or stress related, or maybe a mixture of both - I have already ruled out a brewing infection from the differential diagnosis. Allow me to describe my experience to you.
I arrived at the department, to be told that the machine that I have been allocated has been "playing up" today but not to worry. Blood pressure starts to increase from already elevated pre-anxious state. I then walk into the changing room and the first thing I see is a sign above the sink. It read as follows: "Patients, please do not spit blood into the sink, ask for a sick bowl". Palpitations now present. I make my way into the treatment area where I am greeted by four friendly staff. Palpitations beginning to subside. I am then asked to lie on what I can only describe as a giant blue bean bag which inflates to mould into your body shape once you are in the correct position. Heart rate rises rapidly as I try to get on sed bean bag in a dignified fashion that doesn't involve frontal flashing. I should add that there are both male and female staff present. I am asked to contort myself into an odd adaptation of the foetal position while they stick electrodes on me in places I rather not mention. The fight or flight response has given way to the lay down and die response. I am then told to lie as still as possible while the fire the beams at me. Unfortunately, fight or flight response kicks back in and I now have to fight the urge to jump/roll off the bean bag and run away.
So that was my experience in a nutshell. I have been assured, that there will be significantly less faffing on the day of my treatment dose as they now have all the pre-measurements they need. Todays' experience has been the emotional tipping point for me. I have found myself overwhelmed by sorrow and all I want to do is hide in my room and never come out. But I know that's not possible. I'm trying my hardest, in these last few days of freedom, to make the most of it and enjoy myself. But I cant. I feel like I have completely lost control of myself. I can't sleep properly; I haven't been able to sleep properly for a while but the difference is that now, once again, my dreams are haunted with cancer. I am stress eating like there's no tomorrow - ironically, once I get admitted on Friday, as far as eating is concerned, there probably will be no tomorrow. I don't know. I'm exhausted and I haven't even begun. Once again, I am reminded of when Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane a short while before he was about to be handed over to face his death. In a small way, I feel like I share some of that pain; but there is hope. The hope is of deliverance. I don't feel very hopeful at the moment, but thats ok. I'm assuming Jesus didn't either in that moment. If it's good enough for Him, it's good enough for me.