Flat on my back

The end of my planned treatment was on Tuesday afternoon.  I had my last radiation and my last chemotherapy, and I had the honour of ringing the Bravery Bell!  It was all very exciting, despite the fact looming before me that the very next day, I would be checked into the hospital for three days, to commence my first of two Brachytherapy sessions.

I feel like during my treatment, they really played down what was going to happen during the Brachytherapy because they didn’t want to put you through five weeks of intense treatment, and then at the end be like “Oh yeah, here is the WORST thing, now, after all of the already bad things!!”  So I was under the impression that the Brachy would just be a small device put near my cervix that would deliver a direct dose of internal radiation.  Lets just say they “played that down” a little.

I checked in on Wednesday afternoon and I filled out paperwork, answered some questions, etc, and then they told me I could actually go home for the afternoon and come back at 9pm for an enema to make sure my bowels were empty for the surgery the next morning.  I was DREADING the enema, as it sounds frightening and disgusting and I have had the distinct pleasure of never having one, but I was excited to leave the hospital for the afternoon.

We came back in at 9 for the enema (which really wasn’t so bad, the thought of it was much worse than the actual deed.  Saro spent the night, because he is an angel.  We squished together on the rickety, tiny little hospital bed and cuddled as if our lives depended on it, all night long.  I woke up at 6am to another enema, Jesus, and then I was thrown right into the thick of things.

They put me under anesthesia and implanted a ring and applicator device that essentially had my cervix dilated to 3.8cm for the next coupe of days, for when my treatments would ensue.  When I awoke, I was in severe pain, and their first three attempts at managing it were not effective.  They finally ended up administering 5mg of morphine by IV drip, every two hours for the next two days.  That made the ‘not moving’ a lot more tolerable as well.  Because the device was planted so far inside of me and protruded outside of me physically, I wasn’t allowed to move.  I had a catheter in for bladder movements. the enema took care f the bowels, and I was expected to lay flat on my back until they removed the devices on Friday.  All I can say is thank god for the morphine and thank god for Saro, who indeed spent the next night on a little couch that he was able to unfold into a bed.

The whole experience wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, once they got my pain managed, but it was indeed daunting.  The actual radiation treatments themselves were not scary or painful either, they just came along with a lot of fatigue.

Probably the loveliest part of this whole adventure had to be Bev.  We had a nice big room with a view, and we had the loveliest surprise of sharing it with the sweetest girl named Beverly.  She was a beautiful asian, with a soft voice and a sweet, easy laugh.  She made me love her immediately.  She was in the hospital because she has stage four lung cancer, and she recently had a severe back surgery, so she was in because of low blood counts I believe, and she was starting her chemotherapy the next day.  She looked like she was in her mid thirties, but it turns out she was FORTY SEVEN!!!  Wow, the internal light that radiated from this woman (paired with incredible skin) really made her look like a sweet, youthful, strong angel.  She was an Operating Room nurse who regularly worked downstairs in the  very operating room I would be treated in, and her husband was a Doctor in a neighbouring hospital.

Spending three days with these lovely people opened my eyes to strength and beauty and selflessness.  They spent every year’s vacation doing mission work in third world countries, operating on cataracts on people who hadn’t seen their husband or wife in thirty years, helping children, and watching people line up for 10-12 hours to see them, just to get a single tylenol.  The inspiration I gathered from this amazing couple brought me to tears more than once.  Seeing how people handle adversity with grace and more strength than you think you’ll ever have, is the most amazing thing in the world.

I was afraid that at night I would move my legs and injure myself, with the parts of my equipment protruding out of me.  The hospital said they couldn’t restrain me, but I wasn’t supposed to move.  Bev and Saro worked out a genius plan to make me gentle restraints out of tightly tucked blankets, so I didn’t hurt myself.  She even went down to the Chapters downstairs when I was having my first treatment and was waiting for me outside of the room, talking with her colleagues to make sure I was ok, waiting with the softest, cutest bunny rabbit toy that I have ever seen.  I carried that rabbit with me everywhere throughout the rest of my treatment, including the horrific removal of my implant.

She was checked out about three hours before we were, but we agreed to stay in touch, get together in the future, and most importantly, volunteer together once we are both feeling better.  She is truly one of the most inspirational people I have ever met, I was brought to tears again just writing this post.  She left a ray of sunshine on my soul that will never leave me, and I am so grateful to have met her.

Back to the treatment for a moment…. On the third and final day, they did one more radiation treatment, but they raised my morphine to 7.5mg right before I went in.  After the treatment, they were going to remove the ring and applicator and all of the packing that was placed in my vagina so nothing was able to move.  WITHOUT anesthetic or freezing.  I won’t get into the gory details but it was incredibly painful.  The relief I felt when everything was removed was amazing though, and the pain stopped almost immediately.

This blog post wasn’t particularly grammatically correct, or dignified or funny or glamorous, but I just wanted to get it all down, everything that I felt and that happened over the past few days.  I wanted to write it down so I could remember it down the road, and so that my loved ones could peek into a tiny window of what I went through.

I am resting today and tomorrow, and I check back in on Monday for the exact same treatment.  Minus Bev, which I am more than a little sad about.  Apparently I get a big, beautiful private room with a great view, this time, but I would take her company in a heartbeat.

Ill post again next week, for “Flat on my back, part 2!!”

Lots of love,

Karmen

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