Friday, January 08, 2016

Radiation Treatment for Prostate Cancer

I'm into my second week of 5 weeks of daily radiation treatments for prostate cancer.  Each morning I take the bus to the Polyclinic on Pill Hill, change into pajama bottoms, lay down and position myself into a plastic cast of my calves and feet and present myself to huge round device above me that looks like something out of a planetarium.

Technicians come in to verify my identity by asking for my birthday.  Then they pull my pajama bottoms down around my hips so they can find my little freckle tattoos in order to align me properly and hopefully avoid irradiating of any innocent bystander organs.

Once alignment is complete the technicians leave the room, close the door and the process begins.  I feel nothing and hear little.  Other than an occasional click there's no sensation of any kind.  When there's music it's been jazz or country.  After 10 or 15 minutes a technician comes in and we exchange pleasantries and it's over until the next time.  See you tomorrow!  I change back into my street clothes, leave the hospital and get back on the bus. 

That's it?  Beating cancer can't be that easy.  And it's not.  I've been warned that side effects are coming, specifically weakness.  And there might be some skin burning.  And other more invasive and unpleasant procedures will come after my 5 week course of radiation is complete and my diseased parts have been properly prepped.

One side effect that I am experiencing is an unusual flatulence.  It doesn't seem to matter what I eat.  It starts in the afternoon and continues for most of the night while I sleep, a sort of bubbly and near constant, sometimes painful production of gas.  Radiation is administered 5 days a week so when the flatulence faded over the long holiday weekend I suspected the radiation.

During my 5 weeks of radiation I get 5 minutes a week to talk to my oncologist so I asked him if the flatulence and radiation were related.  He smiled weakly,  nodded affirmatively and added, "there's going to be some mucus too".  Oh goody, gas and liquids.  "Will I get any warning or will it just happen?".  He smiled again.  "You'll get a warning".

It's not much of a warning though.  I'm starting to find the whole radiation experience to be just a bit creepy.  It's a treatment that I can't hear, see or feel yet I'm starting to experience the side effects.  The radiation has inflamed my bladder so I urinate frequently.  When I go anywhere my first task is to seek out and note all bathrooms.  I can't sleep more than 2 or 3 hours without having to get up to pee.  I'm looking forward to a period when I can recover from my treatment and prepare myself for the next much more invasive phase.

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