WARNING! EXPLICIT DETAILS AHEAD. READ AT YOUR OWN PERIL.
It’s been a weird and humiliating series of getting ready for Radiation therapy. Friday was my initial “Planning” appointment. The goal was to find a position that is “reproducible”. The goal was also the problem. Lest we forget the position I have to be in must expose, as nearly as possible, the area that requires irradiation. That area, Class, is the anus.
Congratulations. 100% of you got it right. Except for you back there slinking behind the rest of the group. Shame on you. Now, you have to listen to the entire humiliating experience of Friday (FridayFridayFriday: said in the most bone chilling echo.)
Dr. P, the Computer Guy (we’ll call him CG), and the nurse. All MALE. The appointment starts out without incident. Nurse escorts me from waiting room back to the CT Scan room. He shows me the private bath/changing room within the CT Scan room. He offers me a ubiquitous gown. “Remove everything from the waist down. You can leave your socks on. Open (hold your breath) in the back.” Release breath with sigh. Nurse leaves bath/changing room so I can do the anxiety bathroom usage prior to being able to put on this completely NOT prom gown.
I exit the bath/changing room in my lovely gown and socks to meet this gigantic off-white metallic donut with a narrow table extending from it which, I am absolutely certain is calling my name. Like some gothic horror movie Dr. P in his crisp, white, official buttoned up, narrow collared, Dr./Lab coat, embroidered with his name over the pocket of his left breast. Nurse dressed far more comfortably in khaki’s and a crisp blue shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his mid-forearms, and freakishly tall and creepily quite TC creating a hallway leading me to the TABLE of SHAME!
Table of Shame is covered with a, you guessed it, a clean impossibly white crisp sheet folded in half over which is a hospital blue plastic pad with white absorbing pad center centered two-thirds down the table. I sit down on the pad and am asked to lie down on my back. Being who I am I complain that I cannot lie on my back on a hard flat surface without support under my lower back. Ok, get a pad. I get up they remove the sheet put the pad down, replace sheet, return me to TofS. Now, I need a thing under my neck. They have a big, blue (hospital blue) bag of micro-beads like a weird BeanBagChair.
My legs are positioned knees out to the side like a dead frog on its back. Except that me-being-me again, my left leg does not bend out to the side and lie down nicely. It needs to remain mid-upright and lying down. They punch the bag around a bit to put more beads under my left knee. Once they get my legs apart to expose the tropic of cancer they vacuum out all of the air from the bags. As the air is sucked out the bag forms to my legs. I no longer have to hold my left knee at the weird (for it) angle. The bag will from here-to-fore assure my legs will be reproducible placed.
Now, if we can just get the rest of me done so easily. It was not to be so. These three men simply could not get my fat stomach out-of-the-way. I even said, “Surely, you have had fat women in here before?” Dr. P says, “Of course, we have. We have had many women larger than you.” By this point Dr. P has inserted a device into my anus. Suddenly, I twitch, yelling, “What was that?!?!?!” Dr. P says it was only a balloon expanding to allow better “visualization” of the area to be targeted.
Nothing like having three men pushing, lifting, and spreading your lower torso without a true understanding that this lower third of the body is actually integrated with the upper two-thirds of that same torso, the mind on the stem, supporting the bulb above it inside which, a mind is trying to find its Happy Place as a mantra spoken silently over and over again.
They could not find a “reproducible” position. Dr. P says we will have to try again on Monday. We’ll try it on your stomach this time. I point out, “I have a difficult lying on my stomach on hard surfaces due to my enlarged liver. It makes me nauseous.” Well, we will try a “Belly Board” like they use for pregnant women. It has a cut out for the belly to hang down into yet, be supported gently.
I walk out of the building. Dustin and his friend, Yaron walk with me. Dustin is asking me how it was and I cannot open my mouth. I am sure if I do I will lose my composure entirely. I make it out the door. I make it to the far side of the covered drive up and can no longer hold it in. I begin to sob. Dustin holds me up as I sob into his shoulder. He is worried about me and I can barely speak to explain why I am in such a state. I recover well enough to tell them what happened. We go to the car and I anguish over having to endure this again.
What choice to I have. If I stop now and change cancer centers it will not only delay my treatment by god knows how long and who is to say it would be any better an experience than here. When I get home I call the cancer center intending to speak to Dr. P. But, he is with a patient. I speak to a nurse and give her the details. She is apologetic and offers to have a female nurse with me on Monday.
Monday comes. Dustin goes with me. We go in together and I approach the check in desk. I sign myself in. The woman at the desk greets me and says it will only be moments. My stomach or should I say intestines are in knots. After Friday I do not know what to expect. But, I go with the Nurse anyway.
I am escorted into the CT Scan room and Amy, another nurse, is there with me. She will not leave my side. Throughout the position finding procedure she is with me. Holding my hand. Literally. She asks if I am doing all right. We talk. The Belly Board and I seem to have found a compromise. Damn if that anus device isn’t inserted again. The machine revs up and the TofS begins to slide me into that big, off-white metallic donut hole. Then, it stops. I hear noises behind me. After a couple of minutes I hear Dr. P and the Nurse saying the computer “Glitched”. Not my favorite word for a completely unrelated reason. (Maybe on another rant I will explain that.) I call from my frozen position on my stomach with the carve-out Belly Board beneath me, my head in a weird blue (yep, again) open cradle so I can breathe. If I could have turned my head and moved I would have. But, I cannot. So, I call out, “Did I hear you say the computer glitched?” The only answer was, “Yes.” They told me they were rebooting the computer and it would only take a minute or two. I hold position for a minute or two. The voices I hear behind me are not at all convincing, “We’ll only be a few more minutes. This has happened before, Michelle. Not to worry.” Uh, yeah. right. Sure.
Well, a few minutes turns into a few more minutes and finally Dr. P with the Nurse looking somewhat sheepish says, “It seems the computer will not reboot as it should. We are going to have to move you to the PetScan Room. I’ll take out the probe. But, it will have to be reinserted when we get there.” “NO! Let’s leave it in place.” Dr. P agrees. Then, Nurse says, “Let’s take out the IV.” “NO!! You will only have to stick me again when we get there won’t you?” “Yes.” “Then, leave it in.” Dr. P assures Nurse that leaving the IV in will work fine. They will have to reinject the contrast die AGAIN down the hall.
So, I fumble for the back of my gown to cover my ass. Fortunately, Nurse provides me with a gown doubling as a robe. So, I can walk through the waiting room with some dignity and my cute TopSiders with Pink and White checked sides over laid with iridescent clear sequins on my feet so, I don’t limp.
We get to the PetScan and Dr. P throws out the Belly Board. He is determined to get it right today with the least amount of problem with me on my back. My fat will just have to stay in the way. He tells me that I will experience a little more skin irritation in the folds as he has already described.
Again, I lay on my back. Again, the blue bean bag thingee is put below my legs. Again, we work it into as good a position as I can bear and the vacuum the air out. I want to sign it so, there will be no mistaking it Monday July 1 when ChemoRadiation begin in tandem in earnest.
Dr. P is very sheepish about having to move me to the PetScanner. He assures me that while the computer on the CT Scanner has shut down before, “It was never DURING a patients time in the scanner. It has crashed between patients before. But, never DURING the manuevers.” So, I broke the CT Scanner.