“CANCER road”

“Cancer road”…I’m on the road, prostate cancer.

Is there such a thing as ‘good cancer?’ My doctors think so. They view the situation as curable and believe some other affliction rather than prostate cancer will ultimately do me in.

It has already been a very interesting journey, not one with pain, though there has been some, minor thankfully.

Visit back for my comments and excerpts about this new adventure, the cancer road

Symptoms: early diagnosis
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 necessitating 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 being terminal.

BONE SCAN,  in more detail…
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 an 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, 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.

Next…CAT scan or CT scan
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.

The BRACHYE Therapy and the emergence of Dr. Jekyll
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 an 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.

My CT Scan planning
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.

Well wishers…appreciate your thoughtfulness

J & J

E & G

Next, CT Scan radiation treatments…
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 bowl 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 complelely 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 occuring 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, two?, spurts of radiation. I assume this as the first spurt saw the machinery rotate around the bed in about a 45 second duration, stopping in its return home position. There was a pause now, 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, the reason for my questioning of the technicians. 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 half-way done.

Another rotational spurt lasting 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 phone 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 giving me a brochure to explain aftereffects of radiation theraphy, 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 pancreatic 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 the 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.

Tomorrow, radiation treatment #2

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