Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Radiation Graduation

Entry 6 in the colorectal cancer blog journal "I've Got a Mass in My Ass".

  Was it really just six weeks ago that I arrived at the Royal Victoria Hospital oncology ward as a wide-eyed wisp of a lad enchanted by a wondrous oasis of complimentary tea biscuits and cranberry juice?  Today was "Graduation Day" after 30 radiation treatments and a month-and-a-half regimen of chemo pills.  I even got to wear a graduation gown of sorts, although it didn't have a backside, and instead of throwing my hat up into the air, I just threw up. 
   Actually, that's not true.  I've been very fortunate in terms of side effects, or - more to the point - lack thereof.  No nausea, no hair or weight loss, no dry skin, no need for adult diapers (thank you, baby Jesus) and no more fatigue than normal for someone who gets up for work at 3:30am five days a week.  Except for an inflamed sciatic nerve that would have put a dent in my belly dancing game if I were a belly dancer, it was a seamless experience that left me short on grievance and long on gratitude.  Even the subsequent discovery that it was cranberry cocktail and not juice failed to dampen my appreciation for the care and compassion I've received since being diagnosed nearly four months ago.  The most important and revealing thing I've learned is that as much as the health care system can seem impersonal, the people are dedicated professionals who give you everything they've got and then some when the chips are down.
   It was a pleasure to engage daily with Javier and Mariko in treatment room 6 at the radiology department, and I hope I never seen them again, except when I drop by to thank them for their help after the doctors tell me I'm good to go.
   Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and take nothing for granted - except that the Leafs will miss the playoffs again.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Yay! Bonus radiation!

Entry 5 in the colorectal cancer blog journal "I've Got a Mass in My Ass".

Turns out radiation therapy is like Petro Points: if you're a regular customer you get a bonus.  Tomorrow was supposed to be my 25th and final radiation therapy session, but I was informed this week that they're giving me five additional "boosts", which I assume from the terminology is like the radiation version of a king can of Red Bull.  In any event, it's a much better deal than Petro Points, which redeem a container of windshield washer fluid for something like every $10,000 of gasoline purchased.

No shit (or none that I've seen)
Despite media reports of sewage backing up in the new hospital, I can happily report that my experience at the Glen site has been fecal matter-free.  I'm a big fan of the facility, which has massive windows all around that help create a bright, positive atmosphere that's the antithesis of some of the older hospitals, which are sufficiently depressing that they could be used as a set for a sequel to Jacob's Ladder.  Whomever books the entertainment at the hospital also deserves kudos.  In the past two weeks, a five piece brass band has played Christmas carols from the floor overlooking the cafeteria, and patients in the oncology ward waiting room have been regaled with festive favorites by a women's quartet and a flutist.  I requested side one of Jethro Tull's Thick as a Brick from the girl with the flute, and was rewarded with a blank stare and crickets.

RIP Kristen
I've mentioned in previous posts that I'm able to make light of being ill because I got an early diagnosis and a positive prognosis, but the gravity of this insidious disease is not to be underestimated.  Last week, a young woman with whom I worked at KIC Country radio passed away after a lengthy battle with cancer.  Kristen Maither was sweet as sugar and tough as nails.  She smiled through pain and exuded humility and gratitude in the most adverse circumstances.  It was a privilege to know her.  Godspeed, Kristen.