Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Matchbox Cars and Erector Sets Are Not So Fun

This morning was my first internal radiation treatment. Five more to go.

It got started late due to the Doctor returning late from his vacation, but once it did get started, it wasn't as bad as I'd imagined or heard.

The radiation itself didn't hurt, I just felt some vibrating of a cable on and off during the treatment. The treatment itself only took 397 seconds. The preparation before that took over an hour.

First, I got 10 mg of Morphine. (Once again, I marvel at how morphine doesn't do a darn thing to stop pain. It just seems to take the edge off the worst of the anxiety. I can't for the life of me figure out why someone would find it addictive. For me it felt similar to about 2 shots of bourbon.) The nurse allowed Deb to be the one to access my port for the Morphine. She did such a good job that I didn't even feel it, except a slight pressure.

Then, I had a catheter inserted in order to ensure that my bladder stayed empty throughout the procedure. It stung a little, but not bad. The other thing that having the catheter did was that it allowed them to see exactly where my bladder was on the CT scan used to check the positioning of all the hardware that they rigged me up with.

After the nurse inserted the catheter, the doctor came in.

The doctor began by inserting a speculum without warning or any sense of how a woman's body can adapt to prevent pain to itself. Needless to say, even that simple procedure involved some measure of pain. (If anyone asks, I think if the doc was either a woman or a man who has had prostate problems, this procedure would not have involved much pain at all, instead of a painful, frustrating series of invasions slightly mitigated by morphine.) After the speculum, I felt a couple of other things go inside, involving much cramping and pressure. Evidently, I kept tightening my muscles because he kept telling me to keep my hips on the table and not to lift them and to relax. Well, that all was pretty unrealistic to expect. He did allow me a few minutes to relax my muscles at one point because he finally realized (after I said my legs were shaking from tightening up so much) that no amount of verbal coaxing was going to get me to relax. Finally, after a few minutes, I was ready to go on.

I'm not sure what everything looked like, or what it was called, but later, Deb described it as looking like an "erector set" or like a "microphone stand" coming out from between my legs. (Deb was allowed to watch the procedure because she is a nurse and she knows how to stay out of the way.)

Once the erector set was in place, they attached it to a board on which they had me placed, so that none of the equipment or my pelvis could move. Then they took x-rays to check the placement and transfered me to a gurney and took me to the CT scanner. Now, let me say this about that ride: humiliation and pain. Humiliating because, here I was unable to move in any meaningful way (I could move my feet and my arms, legs and head, but not really my torso at all), with an erector set sticking out from between my legs, lightly covered with a sheet and being wheeled out into the hallway in front of everyone in the waiting room and all the hallways. Painful because each time the gurney jiggled, the erector set was jiggled and everything inside of me cramped up even worse. (Who woulda thought that jostling my shoulder with the armrail would create pain in my privates!) Once the CT was finally done, the CT tech zoomed the bed part out of the doghnut part of the CT machine and it was kind of like taking a spider with it's legs tied up, supergluing it on its back to the roof of a matchbox car, with painful equipment strategically placed inside it, then pushing the matchbox car really hard until it smashed into a wall to stop. I swore at the tech and told her that hurt. It was very painful because when the bed part bashed against the automatic stop (instead of her guiding it to an easy stop), the entire erector set felt like it was jammed even further inside of my uterus. It took a good ten minutes for that particular pain to ease up at all, in addition to the cramping and pressure I was already experiencing.

The worst part of the whole thing was that the Doctor seems to have absolutely no idea of how painful it can be for a woman to have large foreign objects....Anyway, he has absolutely no finesse. If he had at least given me a verbal warning or description of what he was doing, I wouldn't have tensed up my muscles, which made his job more difficult. Also, if he had moved slower instead of cramming the whachumacaullits into place, my body could have adjusted easier and it wouldn't have been as painful. Then, when he snapped two of the different whachamucaulits together, he caught either a piece of my skin or a hair in the way. It took a few minutes before he finally listened to what I was saying and made sure that my skin was out of the vice. (I didn't think of it until talking to a friend later, but I kind of wish I had thought to tell him that if he wanted to know what it felt like, I'd be glad to pinch his foreskin between two of my ragged fingernails so that he could understand.)

So, over all, the experience wasn't nearly as bad as I had expected. And I only have to go through it five more times.

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