Yikes! The first time we turned into the Regional Cancer Center at Shands, every cell in my body was screaming “I don’t want to be here”. My cancer was not life threatening so I was embarrassed to think like this. At this center, like so many others around the world, there are many people struggling to just stay alive. The pediatric patients are really heartbreaking and remind me how life is not fair. But I still, don’t want to be here! I’m not supposed to have cancer. This was how I thought as I started down this path called cancer. After a few steps into this journey, I am glad to report these thoughts are gone. There is now a renewed appreciation of life and my fellow human beings.
Earlier this year, after a year of “Actively Monitoring”, the doctors informed me that it is time to start treatment. The results of my annual biopsy indicated the cancer was growing.
Since this change of direction, we researched numerous options and it seemed surgery or radiation were my two choices. A large number of people with whom I came into contact, warned me of the side effects from surgery. When a surgeon mentioned that up to 40% of surgery patients will still have to have radiation; for me this was a no brainer. I was going to have radiation treatment.
First, we examined the radiation options that are out of town (Proton and IMRT). Unfortunately, the treatment regimen is 5 days a week for 8 weeks. For someone like me, who has a family and manages a growing business this option will not work. Being out of town for eight weeks would create a huge challenge.
We then examined the option of radiation treatments in our home town of Tallahassee. We were very pleased with the Doctor and medical staff. He suggested that because of my active lifestyle, my treatment side effects should be minimal. Each treatment takes about 30 minutes from walking in, to walking out of the door. In addition, I can go home and sleep in my own bed every night.
Everyone we have come into contact with at this Tallahassee center is so friendly and compassionate. They are the true hero’s.
The first step in treatment is the insertion of gold fiducial markers into the prostate. These markers are used to mark the tumor and facilitate precise delivery of the radiation energy. After the most unpleasant biopsy without sedation, I was very worried about this procedure. As it turned out it was not too bad and only took a couple of minutes.
After a MRI, they fit you with a lower body half cast. You will be positioned in this during treatment because it insures you will not move during the radiation. They also give you very small tattoos on your hips that help with your placement for the everyday procedure.
The treatment starts with a test run to make certain all of the setup is working properly. They also play music which is quite comforting. The first song that played that day was Knocking on Heavens Door. This really made me chuckle
Day One – I was very nervous and was not sure not expect (I’m actually starting radiation?”. For treatment you have to be still. Knowing this I had this uncontrollable urge to wiggle. I felt out of control just wanted to move. 1 treatment down 42 to go
Day Two – better – learning to accept the robot arms moving around me. The procedure was delayed because an inpatient ahead of me was having a real rough time. 2 down 41 to go.
Day Three – Noticed so many others with challenges greater than mine; 3 down 40 to go
Day Four – The music played was the song Imagine. I noticed many fellow patients need assistance walking. I am so lucky. 4 down 39 to go
Day Five – Great to finish the first week – song played Symphony for the Devil – Yikes! I’m going in the wrong directions. I liked Knocking on Heavens Door better. 5 treatments down, 38 to go.
Day Six – Monday – Music played Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd. 6 down; 37 to go
Day seven – starting to get into the routine – song Fleetwood Mac – Only thunders when its raining. 7 down; 36 to go
Day 8 – I was the last treatment of the day for the staff. This makes me real popular. Music – Give Me Shelter. 8 down; 35 to go
Today when I went for my 4 mile walk/run: it was very difficult. I hope it was just the heat.
While I am early in this process, everyday I am with them. One by one, some walking, some in wheel chairs, some with walkers, some with family and some in tears. They are all fighting a good fight just to live. This experience really puts life in perspective. Here you really have to admire the human spirit.
So. I urge you to grab a friend, or family member, or go solo. Get outside and go for a walk. Talk about all the good things in your life. Seize the day. Live it to the fullest. This attitude really makes a difference in life.
Are you in?
© October 2017