“Cancer road”…the road I’m on, prostate cancer.
[Posts are dated and numbered….newest to oldest.]
‘Good cancer?’ No joke. My doctors labeled my cancer as “OK” rather than ‘good.’ Curable. One doctor said, “You’ll likely die of something else rather than this cancer.” I’d prefer “really old age,” if I had a choice.
It has already been a very interesting journey: no cancer-related pain, some minor issues that are more of a nuisance than traumatic, a lot of introspection, self-examination and thoughts about living rather than dying.
Visit back for my comments and updates about the journey along the cancer road…
6. Updated 9 21 22: Radiation therapy follow-up with my oncologist
5. Psychological bumps(see below)
4. Brain fog: (also see below)
3. Rad_photos: <— Click the title to view the gallery)
2. Praise: <— Click the title RE The Lakeridge Health Cancer Centre
1. Journey: notes from going down the road (see below)
22. Oncologist update 7 20 22
From the oncologist, Dr, Jenna Adelmant:
“Nada”….In a few words, we are at the “wait-and-see” stage. Evidently, the radiation continues to have an impact even after therapy sessions have concluded. Then, time is required for the body to be affected and show the impact of the radiation therapy, all of which takes a couple of months. The oncologist feels we will reach that point late in the year, late fall, likely the end of November or early December. At that point, blood tests and PSA evaluation will give us the results we are hoping for, looking for….a low PSA count.
21. A psychological bump in the road…
In one of my reviews with my oncologist, we began talking about “other issues,” issues that went beyond the physical side effects. It had come up when I mentioned: “brain fog” (see elsewhere).
Anxiety and stress are normal emotional upheavals in cancer patients undergoing treatment. I was no different though I seemed to be using a magnifying glass more than others. The oncologist suggested considering meeting with a psychological support counsellor, my decision.
Thinking there was nothing to lose with such a meeting, a phone meeting was arranged with a support counsellor.
Catherine Allan, (MSW, RSW) phoned and we spent an hour talking.
Catherine is an emotional/psychological counsellor specializing in working with cancer patients. She listened to my description of riding an emotional roller coaster with highs of feeling optimistic and positive to lows where my incapacity to focus and brain foggy moments bordered on depression and discouragement.
The highway drive from Lakeridge Health Services in Oshawa to Pickering each day was a time of self-examination and life review. Mentally I rode from the euphoria of how good life is and how much I appreciated it to the incredible traffic at midday.
“It’s Toronto, big guy! Millions of people and more each month, so expect traffic, tons of it. Just be thankful you had the foresight to book sessions for mid-day not during rush hour times.”
The experience, skill and expertise of psycho-therapist Catherine shone through throughout the whole conversation. If I interrupted her, she accepted it and adjusted the conversation flow. If I drifted into a new area, she flowed with that as if it were the normal thing to do.
OK, so where am I going with all this? The short answer is mental health is not the leper-colony-isolation it was years ago. There is no shame, no embarrassment anymore. People recognize there our many, many flowers in our garden of humanity and each needs differing attention. The negative stigma is no longer there. As importantly, help is a mere Internet link away or a community social welfare phone call. Physical well-being today is accompanied by the recognition that there is a need to consider its companion, psychological well-being.
Catherine and I had a constructive and fulfilling conversation ending it with the ball lobbed into my court. If I feel the need at the end of a month, I should phone her. Otherwise, she felt I was dealing with matters strongly and constructively. Thank goodness.
20. Treatment #14 (6-10-22) …one more treatment to go…whew….then?
The 15th can final radiation treatment. Margaret and Rakesh were the treatment duo, both having treated me before. Treatment went without a hitch unless you view that the machinery ran an extra run, a third turn rather than the usual two. When queried about this the response was a jocular “an extra rotation for good measure.” Unusual and surprising to have the machine run the extra cycle. But perhaps it is just a glitch that happens from time to time.
At the conclusion of the treatment, Margaret took the time to underline that the radiation effects continue after the treatment, continue for weeks after and that I should expect side effects to be more noticeable in a couple of weeks. The side effects she underlined most were fatigue and possibly more frequent urination. I kind of wished for loss of appetite and weight loss as I swear my weight has increased from lack of exercise and more sedentary days due to real fatigue and feeling of exhaustion.
Now I wait for a follow-up appointment to be scheduled by my oncologist, Dr. Adelman. I can only hope that the worst is behind me, that the predicted side effects will be minimal but more than all that, I hope and pray the radiation treatments have had the effect that Dr. Adelman touted in our first meeting where the word, ‘cure’ was used three specific times. Let’s hope and pray.
19. Treatment #14 (6-10-22) …one more treatment to go…whew….then ?
One more treatment to go after this weekend. It has been a nuisance more than anything else but the results will really determine what kind of nuisance.
Today’s technicians/staff: Kaitlynn, Lorraine and Masfa, were a very upbeat team, very much into assisting and helping. Lorraine even accepted the task of taking photographs for me and she did a marvellous job of it as evidenced by the separate gallery at Rad photos
My oncologist came through with the photo permission for me with the stipulation that the staff is not identifiable. Never my intention, so we are on the same page.
Talked with Holly at reception and got the name of the manager of the Radiation Therapy Department, Christine Black.
Be sure to read my concluding summary regarding the Lakeridge Cancer Treatment center.
The Cancer Department at Lakeridge Health is really on top of its game. Check-in digitally or confirm your check-in digitally and you sit for less than five minutes before someone comes out to the reception area to escort you to the treatment area. I arrived early today just to avoid feeling rushed and with hopes that my bladder was appropriately ready for the treatment…bursting at the seams. In this case, I had made a pit stop before entering the department, so I knew there would be a wait time of 10-20 mins. That’s how much the bladder’s operation has been affected by these radiation treatments. Though I was about 20 mins early, staff person, Masfa, came out to get me in less than 5 mins. I needed a bit more time and she accommodated me.
Changed, and seated in the waiting area, Masfa escorted me into Treatment Rm #4 where radiology technicians, Lorraine and Kaitlynn were waiting. ID confirmed by birthdate declaration and allergy confirmation, I was positioned on the treatment table where Lorraine snapped numerous photos of me. Treatment completed, as usual, I wanted to confirm who was the director of the department to include the person’s name in my summary report. The receptionist, Holly, laughed when I queried, “What the name of the director of the department. I would like to include his name.” Seeing the error of my assumption, I added, “Presumptuous of me saying his name.” Holly laughed, “It’s a woman.” Times have really changed or are really changing for the benefit of women.
Now read my summary about Lakeridge Cancer Treatment center at: Lakeridge Cancer Treatment
18. Treatment #13 (6-9-22) …some thoughts, treatment and radiation review
Before heading off to treatment, I would like to make a brief comment about something which is troubling me mentally. I find it increasingly difficult to stay focussed, keeping my attention on a task. I seem to drift off while trying to do a task. It could be information overload, or it could be ‘brain fog’ associated with stress, anxiety and depression. It would be reasonable to believe those emotional problems would hit a patient undergoing extended cancer treatment therapy. I am providing a link to an article relating to ‘brain fog.’ Click: BRAIN FOG
Technicians today, Shayne again and Rakesh. The treatment went without a hitch but the follow-up review took time.
First, I met with the reviewing agent, Melissa, who did a thorough review of all my meds, my side effects, problems (none) and my psychological status. The last item was important as I explained my stress and anxiety were affecting my focus and productivity. Our discussion ranged over possible causes and possible resolutions, chief of which was meeting with the counsellor team that deals with the psychological aspects of the treatment. Melissa felt it was significant enough to bring it up with my oncologist, Dr. Adelman who was next to meet with me in this follow-up review. Both individuals looked at my prescription log which needed one medication refilled. My system of logging everything on the iPad with photos of the drug labels and each pill is an excellent method for updating what I need and what has been taken thus far. I need one medication refilled, a muscle relaxant, Sandoz-Tamsulosin, which assists the bladder in doing its work.
Dr. Adelman agreed the meeting with the psycho-counsellor could be productive and worthwhile and was to follow up the necessary process to set up my meeting with them. Secondly, when I explained about this blog/log of my cancer trek and asked if I might be able to get permission to take photos, she said she would follow up on that and get back to me. There may not be much to take photos of, but I think it is worth pursuing just in case. Who knows, there may be some human interest shots.
Otherwise, the treatment was quick and efficiently done, leaving just three sessions left. No problem. This whole protocol has been easy except for the anxiety and stress that comes from facing the unknown and that is what is bothering me the most. One doesn’t know the outcome and won’t for weeks after. Something like six weeks after, Dr. Adelman will be doing her evaluation process which entails CTscan and possibly blood work again. Melissa explained that the after-effects of the immediate radiation treatment must subside so the body returns to normal in order to get as close to accurate evaluation and review as possible.
17. Treatment #12 (6-8-22) …a personable, cheery pair of technicians
For the first time, I had a team of technicians who either enjoyed their jobs or they were having a good day. Nikki and Sarah, were efficient, professional but maybe more importantly, cheery and affable. They bubbled with enthusiasm. How can you bubble with enthusiasm doing this job? They finished their work quickly but were open to questions which I had: how do you keep from becoming a bored technician doing a mechanical job over and over again? Treat each patient as an individual with different needs, different persona and different requirements. What do you see in the control room? We see a combination of photos and statistical output. The photos are greyish three-dimensional images somewhat as seen in a CT scan, MRI or ultrasound. The data is a numerical confirmation of our settings and the resulting output. Can you see progress or the accumulated results of all the radiation treatments? No, that kind of image is not seen. Is such available? Likely, but one would have to ask the oncologist as that kind of material is managed by the records department.
I likely asked a lot more but those were the priority questions. My focus seemed to be on how they avoided boredom given that there was little change from patient to patient, treatment to treatment. In my eyes, they were working on sausage production. In their eyes, it was patient treatment. Thank goodness they are the radiation therapists rather than one like me. Mind you, previous teams were more like I would be. Thankfully Sarah and Nikki were not, not even close to it.
16. Treatment #11 (6-7-22) …some questions answered
Three radiation technicians were on hand for today’s treatment, Stephanie, Marilyn and Shayne. I hope that’s not saying something. The treatment was done quickly and efficiently, so I was able to ask Shayne some questions:
a) Why are 16 treatments done rather than one long one?
A single treatment would be too destructive to the cells in the treatment area. Because of the potency of the treatment, the cancer cells and the surrounding cells would be blasted with radiation, the result would be too destructive. Spreading the treatments in small doses over a number of treatments means the cancer cells get the concentration but as the dose is relatively small, the surrounding cells receive radiation from which they can recover, restoring their destroyed DNA.
b) Why are the number of treatments differing in number for patients with similar prostate cancer?
The cancer is different with each patient, larger or smaller, more or less dense. Hence, the patient’s oncologist prescribes a treatment that is customized for the particular case.
c) What training do radiation therapists receive to receive certification?
Though this varies with each trainee and is dependent on the education they have had up to the radiation technology training, most have a basic university degree, preferable including some science courses, followed by two years of radiation therapy study and on-site training. In Shayne’s case, he received his training at McMaster University in Hamilton. There are two other centres in the GTA, one at the University of Toronto and the other at the Michener Institute comprised of four hospitals: Toronto General, Toronto Western, Princess Margaret and Toronto Rehab.
15. Treatment #10 (6-6-22) …new team, nothing untoward
Treatment was done in another room today with a new radiologist team, Liz and Lorraine. Nothing untoward occurred in the treatment other than maybe what seemed like an extra rotation of the radar beam. The machine made an extra rotation but not likely beaming radiation as this could have been an error.
My only thought may verge on racism. One of the radiologists was a woman of colour. I thought ‘Good for her’ as attaining such credentials must need additional study beyond regular secondary education, and maybe college too. The stereotypical thinking likely was along the lines of ‘blacks don’t usually have the money or the wherewithal to do such necessary studies.’ Racist stereotypical thinking from which I do not know how to extricate myself. She did it. She is a professional. Her skin colour is totally irrelevant.
14. Treatment #9 (6-3-22) … the worst aspect of today’s appointment is the traffic!
My technicians at today’s treatment were Stephanie and Stephanie (not a mistyping), neither a previous treatment technician for my treatments. The appointment was uneventful. The waiting area was discouragingly packed with patients. This may be a good sign in that more people are being diagnosed with cancer and receiving treatment. On the other hand, there could be a dark side in that simply more people are being diagnosed with a form of cancer.
I am more than halfway through my treatment protocol and glad of that as the trek to Oshawa’s Lakeridge Health Centre is surprisingly busy with traffic. I chose midday appointment times thinking traffic would be minimal at that time of the day. I am learning that there is no time when traffic is minimal on the GTA corridor of Hwy 401. Of course, the morning traffic west to Toronto is unspeakable in volume. But it never seems to ease up as it is still very busy westbound even when I am travelling east to one of my appointment.
14. Treatment #8 (6-2-22) …sprung an unexpected leak !
The protocol for treatments requires one to have a full bladder and an evacuated lower intestine. The reason for these conditions is that the extension of the bladder and collapse of the emptied bowel helps to position the prostate ideally for the treatment. Well, I have no problem fulfilling either of these conditions as I had the foresight to have my treatments scheduled around noon giving me all morning for the necessary bodily processes.
The water intake has been easy as I drink a couple of tall glasses before my hospital trek adding another 500ml en route. By the time I arrive, my bladder is well distended. Today it was super distended. I recognized that there was no way I would last on the treatment bed without peeing. Margaret, the same tech team as yesterday, said “Go. We just give you more water and wait a bit.” The situation got crucial as I rushed to the washroom, bits of dribbling en route.
The treatment was followed up with a radiation review with Sarah, my oncologist’s assistant. She confirmed my understanding of how cancer cells are destroyed by radiation and that normal cells recover. The notable side effect of all this cell transformation is fatigue after about half the treatments have been completed and later. I am in that condition now…fatigue, so much that an hour nap is crucial every afternoon.
The only interesting side incident today was that my delay in re-distending the bladder gave me a chance to meet with another prostate cancer patient and compare notes. Sounds like the biggest or the best thing about the treatment of this cancer is that there seems to be no pain or suffering for the majority of male patients. The only curious thing about our notes comparison is that he is getting 20 treatments vs. my 16. Begs a question, doesn’t it.
13. Treatment #7 (6-1-22) not the technicians, not the hospital, but the road getting home
To the question, “What happens with each treatment?” I was told…
The radiation is beamed at the gold seed demarcation zone of the prostate. Each blast of radiation destroys DNA cells in the region. Normal cells regenerate their DNA. The cancerous cells do not, hopefully. We shall see.
Technicians today were Margaret and Marilyn. Marilyn asserted she remembered me from yesterday. I corrected her as I record my treatments daily. Marilyn was one of the two technicians at my very first treatment.
Other than being on the cancer road
This has nothing to do with the treatments but more with the road home and my patience levels. The rainstorm was a close second to the one that hit southern Ontario last Saturday. Highway speed slowed which is reasonable. An accident closed off the all express lanes homeward bound, so I detoured to local roads, as did many others. However, following a blue VW Golf into a left turn lane at traffic lights, I saw the car was not signalling. My powers of prognostication kicked in, she’s going to turn left, signal or no signal. She did. My BP kicked up a bit. Stuck behind her I followed at a safe distance. She did it again, this time a right turn with no signal. My BP escalated again but she was gone. Then, as I got closer to home, traffic still very congested, another jerk cut right in front of me, missing my bumper by inches. I blasted my horn and left it on so others were alarmed and would be brought to attention. Why? The jerk was in front of me and never heard of signal light use, road courtesy or proper driving habits. Normally, I back away from such drivers but in this case, I was driving my wife’s car. Heaven help the driver that causes any damage to this car!
The afternoon scotch never tasted as good or was as calming as it was today.
12. Treatment #6 (5-31-22) the surprises never cease
It may have been ominous but I got called for my appointed treatment along with another patient. Thank goodness the technicians didn’t try to treat both of us in the same treatment. He went first and very shortly after, it was my turn. Shayne, the same techie as yesterday and Lenny wearing his Batman t-shirt were quick and efficient and my treatment was finished in short order, maybe ten minutes.
Expecting to exit the parking and be on the road very soon, I hit a snag when I inserted my parking ticket to lift the barricade to exit. The card popped back out; on a second try, the same thing happened. I was able to back up and drive to the parking office to explain the situation. “Just call out your name at the gate and I will lift the barricade,” I was told. After repeated tries, the barricade was lifted and I was away. I needed gas, so I drove along a commercial roadway toward Whitby. Just my luck, many gas stations but all on the other side of the roadway. Eventually, I found one at an intersection and got to it after a number of U-turns.
$117.12 was my refuelling cost. I nearly fell over. My gas tank had some gas still in it, though not much but that fuel cost was a real sticker shock. Button pushed to get my receipt. Pfft…no receipt. Inside I go and succeed in getting a printed receipt.
I was home soon after but the whole day was another one with bumps on the cancer road. I can only hope my treatment results don’t have little glitches as my daily treatments have been.
11. Treatment #5 (5-30-22) Surprise, surprise…they changed the appt time, but never told me
Luckily, I am on the computer a lot, writing, logging, and keeping records. The health record is kept on what the Ontario Govt calls “My Chart,” a practical and efficient way of keeping health-related material ranging from a person’s doctors, medications information, and appointments. One can even ‘check in’ digitally to confirm you will be at the appt when required. However, the system is quirky, with inconsistencies in operation. As far as I have seen, all one’s medical information is retained, and nothing is deleted. Good!
However, when I referred to My Chart prior to today’s appt, the time had been moved forward, to my shock and surprise. I rushed like a fly on a hot griddle, showered and out the door in minutes. The short of it all was, I arrived with minutes to spare. No one noticed anything different.
The treatment went as usual with Shayne and another technician who never introduced herself.
10. Treatment #4 (5-27-22) …technicians with questionable beside manner
My technicians, Sheryl again and Sarah, were the epitome of efficiency. I was in and out in what seemed to be half the usual time. The actual treatment time was not abbreviated. It’s just getting into the treatment was handled quickly and efficiently. The technicians even seemed to be more personable. Now that’s another story.
Every treatment has been managed by technicians whose bedside manner felt less than personable. With over 200 patients a day, maybe it is understandable that the technicians just want to complete the task at hand as quickly, accurately and efficiently as possible. But a friendly greeting, a gentle “how are ya doing?” would make the patient feel better. Some patients might find the efficiency and effectiveness a bit abrupt, maybe even cold.
The treatment room equipment is intimidating enough already. A warmer approach by the technicians may make patients feel more comfortable. This was so today. Sheryl and Sarah greeted me with questions as to how I was doing. When I mentioned the aloofness of the past technicians to Sheryl, she was one of those, she explained that sometimes technicians were in a new treatment room and were concentrating on the new surroundings at the expense of patient disregard. Maybe. Still, I would think many patients are already stressed and anxious just in being there. A bit of warmth and personable friendliness might go a long way to making patients feel less anxious and stressed.
Just my opinion.
9. Treatment #3, (5-26-22)…wow, what a huge area devoted to cancer treatment
The long hallway to treatment room #7 passes six other treatment rooms. So Lakeridge Hospital in Oshawa has 6 treatment rooms currently on the go with planning for an additional room in the near future. Each room costs between $1-$2. Imagine the cost of the hospital and in the case of the cancer dept., it looks like business is booming, each room radiates about 30 patients a day, so they are treating about 200 people a day and planning for more. It is either a sad comment on the increasing number of cancer patients or this radiation treatment is so effective, that they need to add more facilities for providing it.
The oncology dept or cancer treatment center is really large with two reception areas, one on each floor, first and basement. There have been well over a dozen patients each time I was there.
Cancer must be a sly or facetious malady. Almost all the patients look healthy and robust. One never would think are patients suffering various kinds of cancers in varying levels of seriousness. I would never be seen as sick with cancer, given my robust physique and healthy colour. But I am one of these, one of the afflicted.
The cancer people try to project a positive and optimistic attitude. Even their signage is positive:
As always, no hospital visit of mine is uneventful. In this case, when I got back to my wife’s car, a late model Japanese car with all the bells and whistles and HORNS….damn good horns, loud horns, the kind that attract everyone in the parking garage when they go off. The car needs no key to be started, though the key must be nearby. I would consider in my jacket pocket sitting in the driver’s seat as nearby, really nearby. But suddenly, the HORN blared telling the world something was wrong with this car’s situation. The dash message said no key was nearby. I dug the key fob out and began pushing every button on it in hopes that the Oshawa wide horn blowing was be shut off. To no avail…it kept on blaring away with the same message, “No key in the vicinity.” All I could think of doing was, starting the car and getting out of there fast. Lo and behold, when the car started, the horn ceased its message of “this driver is lost when using new-fangled technology.”
I needed a scotch, pronto.
8. Radiation treatment #2 (5-25-22)…skating on thin ice
The only thing different in the treatment was two new technicians, Nerys and Musneer.
One thing happened that made me think, “Could I be losing my memory?” I was changing into the gown for readiness for the treatment. I took my underwear, pants, and jacket to one of the lockers, making note of which locker and its location. When I completed my treatment, I rushed to the washroom as they want you to have a FULL bladder for treatment. Mine was bursting. Washroom found, bladder drained, back into the hallway to find the locker. Hmmm, more than one change vestibule. In fact, 4 or 5 with 8 lockers in each vestibule area. The closest one to where I was standing, was not likely the correct area as I thought I would have chosen to be nearer to the treatment room due to bladder pressures. A quick check of these first lockers, nothing. I was correct. Next vestibule area, zip. Whoa, ‘must be further along the hallway,’ I thought.
I began having visions of driving home in a hospital gown with a bared butt on the leather seats. Challenging to explain to a cop what the situation is. No worries though, my keys were in my jacket in the lost locker so those negative visions weren’t going to be reality. Whew!
Onward to the next change area. Again, no luck. Thoughts of plausible explanations to give a nurse or technician for assistance went through my head. Next area, same bad luck. Finally, in the last change area, two women were seated in the chairs out front. I was certain I would not have used one where women were seated like that. Reverse direction and recheck. Don’t they say something about only a fool makes the same mistakes expecting different results? Results failed again….grrr. Well, last chance, the vestibule area with the two women. At this point, I had checked and rechecked close to forty lockers without success. Better bite the bullet and do the change area with the seated women. Locker location, looking good, no different than all the others. Found the appropriate locker. Ready to open what I thought was the correct locker. Bingo, clothing.
7. Radiation treatment #1: HIGH ANXIETY…
I was anxious the morning of my first radiation treatment. The previously given reassurances were falling on deaf ears. I had been asked numerous times by various medical staff to be sure to have a morning bowel movement and to fill the bladder for the treatment session. I worried. The numerous medications I was taking were making my bowel movements into a roller coaster ride of inconsistency. Thankfully a couple of days earlier the roller coaster stopped. Thank goodness, the old routine returned. I could now turn to my water intake.
Water, water, water. I likely drank almost a litre by the time I was enroute to the hospital. By arrival time, I was near bursting. The radiation technician was pleased to hear my water status but didn’t suggest a bathroom visit.
“Change here,” means strip completely from the waist down, ignoring the socks and shoes. Gown on, I headed toward the radiation treatment room. Two radiation therapists, the M & M pair, Marilyn and Margaret, two veterans directed me to lie down on a slab-bed under a 2-foot square blue plate. I was positioned and given a rubber ring to hold on my chest. It helps to keep the arms in the proper position.
M&M explained the process would take about 10 minutes and be painless. They should have said it was non-noticeable. The only thing occurring that was evidence something was happening was a soft whirring sound when the radiation equipment rotated around the bed on which I was lying. The technicians isolated from the radiation room remained in touch via a speaker system on which some music played, likely intended to relax the patient. The music was Zoomer Radio type which is not conducive to calming and relaxation.
The radiation treatments seem to be a series of machine rotations, possibly producing two bursts of radiation in the full treatment session. I assume this as the first burst saw the machine rotate around the bed in about a 45-second duration, stopping at its return home position. Then there was a pause, longer than I liked. I asked if there were more to come. Technician Marilyn returned to my side asking if I were alright, if I were uncomfortable, and the reason for my questions. I explained that the quiet made me anxious, making me wonder if the treatment was over. She explained the data had to be processed and verified but that we were halfway done.
Another rotational spurt lasted about a minute or so and the machine stopped. Marilyn returned to the room, looked into my face and declared, “We’re done.” I responded with an ask for confirmation which I received.
I was done. I changed and exited the hospital having phoned my chauffeur of these hospital appointments, my wife.
There were no effects that I could feel or sense as I evaluated them while driving home. Nothing, no dizziness, no wooziness, nothing.
Technician Margaret had intended to give me a brochure to explain the aftereffects of radiation therapy, but she forgot.
I was home soon, the entire process from home departure to home return, less than two hours.
I likely will repeat myself with these observations but so far the worst of this prostate cancer seems to be the medication I am taking. The most noticeable side effects: fatigue and constipation, though the latter is passing. Otherwise, there seem to be no serious issues with this form of cancer. No pain, no serious physical problems. Fatigue and weight gain seem to be the biggest problems. My diet is very controlled to minimize weight gain, to no success. Both, the fatigue and the weight increase have become notable concerns but while the radiation therapy is ongoing, I feel I should leave well enough alone.
6. Well wishers…thank you for your thoughtfulness
5. My CT Scan: JUST A PLANNING SESSION
My CT Scan was a breeze, meaning no pain, no increased anxiety, and no after-effects. The reason it was so favourable was that it was simply a planning process to set things up for the actual upcoming radiation treatments.
I entered an expansive room with a raised pedestal bedlike platform for the patient to lie on as the huge hollow-center circular ring, immense, the size of a small compact car. It is the radiation source that does this treatment. In my case, they tattoed my treatment area for easy targeting later and slid my pedestal bed into the center of the ring a number of times to check positioning. Thirty minutes and I was gone.
4. The BRACHYE Therapy: Dr. Jekyll makes a surprise visit
The Brachye therapy surgery released some satanic, evil spirit from deep inside me. Maybe it was anger in retaliation for the surgery or the rage at being afflicted by cancer. But it was shameful and embarrassing.
Brachye therapy is a surgery where gold seeds the size of a pencil point or maybe 2 dots of a grammar ellipsis are implanted in a pattern into the prostate to assist radiation focusing in future radiation treatments, sixteen of them. Mind-boggling and frightening.
But back to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I’ve always thought I have some Jekyll aspects to my personality. Impatience, a bit of aggressive intensity in verbal discussions, some spitefulness when offended. However, I have prided myself on thinking I had these well under control in life. Little did I know.
Before the surgery, I met with the anesthesiologist and the oncologist and socialized with the four nurses in the Brachye therapy department, Lisa, Sharon, Susan and Julie. They almost began serving cake and coffee we were socializing so well. Laughing, joking around, just marvellous stuff.
Three hours later, the surgery was completed and I’m coming to in the recovery room. Well, kind of me but in altered personality, a stevedore from the Montreal ports, an American sailor from the worst of Boston harbours, a Cuban mariner on a mutinous rage dodging the US coast guard while en route to Florida, all three, channelling the star of The Exorcist…Satan himself.
The first nurse came in. Shockingly, I told her to f*** **f. The next two got even more of the same, salt and pepper vitriol unleashed. When one nurse, the senior one, said don’t talk to me like that, I responded with language that coloured blue language even darker. It was shameful. It was embarrassing. It was terrible. It was terrorizing but I couldn’t control it. I was aware of everything, but my responses were embarrassingly shameful. An hour later, after an additional recovery nap, I came to my senses and apologized to each nurse personally…with as sincere and profound apology as I could make knowing closing the barn door after the horse has run off is too late. Each nurse politely explained surgery responses vary from person to person. Happy to laughing, joyful to sad and depressing. Mine, to be diplomatic, was off-colour, way off-colour.
Nadia would have killed me if she had been there and Nadia is the most passive, pacifist I know. But in this case, there would have been no saving grace. If cancer doesn’t get me, Nadia would have.
I return for CT Scan planning next. I will have to visit the Brachye Therapy department again just so I can apologize again. Nadia might say leave well enough alone, but I still can’t get over the evil demon that lives inside me.
People who have had radiation tell me it is not bad at all, nothing like chemotherapy. I just hope the devil doesn’t return for a repeat visit, a repeat performance.
3. CAT scan or CT scan…again the machinery is distressing
Both types of scans have similar uses, but they produce images in different ways. A CT scan uses X-rays, whereas an MRI scan uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves. CT scans are more common and less expensive, but MRI scans produce more detailed images. CT scans are more common and less expensive, but MRI scans produce more detailed images.
Which is better? Magnetic resonance imaging produces clearer images compared to a CT scan. In instances when doctors need a view of soft tissues, an MRI is a better option than x-rays or CTs. MRIs can create better pictures of organs and soft tissues, such as torn ligaments and herniated discs, compared to CT images. MRIs are a costlier diagnostic tool than a CT scan.
2. BONE SCAN, in more detail…machinery is intimidating
A bone scan is a specialized radiology procedure used to examine the bones of the skeleton. It is done to identify areas of physical and chemical changes in bone. A bone scan may also be used to follow the progress of treatment of certain conditions such as the existence of cancer cells.
I lay down on a flat table while a plate, reminding me of a coffin lid, was lowered over me, that’s how the bone scan procedure began for me.
Getting a bone scan done is almost totally painless. The only pain is that of a needle for intravenous dye injection. If you have had needles before, no problem. If you are like me and hate needles of any kind, it is a big issue.
You won’t even have to disrobe as the machinery is sensitive to the dye within the body, nothing else. Jewelry must be removed though.
The process begins with a nurse creating an injection connection with your body, an injection connection to a vein so they can inject radioactive dye which the bone scan machine scans. It is more a matter of waiting for the dye to have the time to flow throughout your body. They have the time set for a couple of hours. You sit and wait.
When the time has elapsed deadlined, you are moved to a room for the actual procedure. The room is dimly lit, intentionally quiet to induce calm. It works.
You are asked to lie on a moulded bed and the procedure is explained.
The procedure consists of an overhead large, coffin-lid-like frame coming down over you. Its purpose is to process images of your bone system.
Thankfully, the coffin-lid frame has a built-in safety mechanism to limit its downward movement as it is scary to watch this large metal plate descending over you. It is a bit stressful to watch this large, flat lid coming down onto you, down and down. It stops, don’t worry.
When it reaches its lowest point there can be some slight movement, up and down of the lid as it fine-tunes its focusing position.
Then, snap, and an image is taken. This is not a photo in the normal sense of the word. It is an image of the radiation results showing the bone structure and density of the section of the body.
Because the machine can only deal with sections of the anatomy, the machine moves a section at a time. Snap, move to the next section, snap, and repeat. It is a totally painless procedure; the only anxiety may be from waiting for the next move of the coffin lid.
The process is slow. Images of your body must be taken from all sides. So the coffin lid moves around your body, in small increments. The entire process takes about twenty to thirty minutes and the best way to deal with it is to mentally escape to a beach or a cottage somewhere.
You could fall asleep if you relax too much but no worry, the nurse will notify you when it’s over.
1. Symptoms: early diagnosis reduces anxiety
There were no symptoms. No pain, no pain in urinating, no traces of blood. So what led to the discovery? Elevated PSA number. Not extremely high but high enough to spark the inquisitiveness of my urologist. An ultrasound examination led to more evidence that something was not as normal as it should be. Some blood analysis indicated a 70% chance that cancerous cells in the prostate necessitate more serious examination.
Bone scan first to confirm if the lymph glands had carried cancerous cells through the body. A CAT scan followed, to see if there was metastasizing or spreading. Both results yielded good news, my cancer but isolated and localized.
Early discovery and early diagnosis make one optimistic. When one’s urologist and oncologist use words like cure, repeatedly, and ‘outliving this type of cancer’ one has hope.
Though my journey deals with men, the importance of early diagnosis is crucial for bother genders. Cancer in its earliest stages has very good chances of recovery. Longer delays in diagnoses increase the risk of the cancer is terminal.