It all started with a pain in my back. I was a mess. Every day, the pain grew and spread until it ran down my entire left leg and shot up into my chest. What I had hoped might be a simple pinched nerve turned out to be the result of a new metastasis in the muscle of my lower back, conveniently pressing gently up against the sciatic nerve like a feather made of barbed wire attached to a cattle prod.
To treat this nasty beast, the only practical solution was to zap it with radiation — something that I could barely wait to begin doing. By the time this was presented as an option, I was in such agony that surgery would have been appealing. Radiation, by comparison to virtually anything else, sounded like a relief.
When I arrived to tour the facility and get oriented, I was instantly enamored by the place. They treated me like royalty. I got a pass for free parking with reserved spots just for patients in radiation oncology. They handed me a badge that opened a private entrance right into the radiation facility.Once the treatments started, I could practically be in and out in less than ten minutes. And to top it off, the radiation was administered in a cool room right out of one of my favorite 1970s sci-fi pics. I’m talking foreign, too, like something by Tarkovsky. Maybe not Solaris, but still something good. Or at least a leftover set from Logan’s Run or Brave New World.
It was more psychologically comforting than it was comfortable, at least on the first day. They did their best, but lying still on my back was no easy feat for me, even if just for five minutes to get everything locked in place the first time. (Subsequent visits were shorter, more like two minutes between getting strapped down and released from the gurney.)
My ten sessions on that platform seemed to go quickly at first, but after hitting the midway point, it was like hitting a wall. The excitement of getting started gave way to the immediate thrill of feeling noticeably less pain after just the first treatment. By the third pass, it was a substantial difference and I was already cutting back on my pain relievers at night. But then the vomiting started.
And the general feeling of unease in my gut.
And I realized that I wasn’t getting out of the woods without passing through some thorny branches. But at the end of it all, in spite of a shift in the nature of the path from all bright and pastoral, straight and wide, to a narrow, shifting, shadowy trail that brought me through briars and failed to follow points on the compass, it still opened up into a sunnier field bursting with possibilities.
That last day, even with the knowledge that my gut would take at least through the weekend to repair itself, I left with a spring in my step. I was joyful to again have the end in sight and to know that my pain had been assuaged. (More on the whole process in the links below, which you can Option-Click to open in a new tab…)
And my intestines did get better. The vomiting stopped. The diarrhea dissipated. Anti-nausea drugs and pain killing narcotics gave way to Imodium and Advil and really not much Advil at all. The pressure in my back isn’t gone completely, but since the radiation therapy, there has been no serious pain. It could take up to two weeks for the full effects to be realized and I’m not there yet, but I am holding onto faith in the procedure whenever I feel a twinge along my left side.
So far, so good. So far.
Subscribers can listen to me talk about the daily excitement of the radiation experience via my erstwhile podcast over on Patreon.
Listen to twelve minutes of me recapping the last two days of radiation.
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