After the external radiation and chemotherapy there was a next step to take in the whole of my treatment: the internal radiation or also called brachytherapy. I call this my personal horror story. Almost on a daily basis we are confronted with breast cancer and everybody knows more or less all the treatments that exist for breast cancer. For cervical cancer however, we don’t really read or hear a lot about the different treatments. So what I am going to tell now about the next part of my treatment might shock some people.
The brachytherapy was supposed to start on the 26th of September. Unfortunately when I arrived on Tuesday 25 September, I had a fever and apparently an infection again. Also my white blood cells had dropped down again. I didn’t understand that because I felt good and the last chemo was almost two weeks ago. The doctor explained me that sometimes about 10 to 15 days after the chemo is done, white blood cells tend to drop down again. And that was what happened to me. This whole situation wasn’t good because due to all those things, the doctors didn’t wanna take a risk and decided not to go through with the brachytherapy that week. That was shitty because I wanted it all to be over and now I had to wait. The only thing that made me feel a bit more positive is that the doc told me that we had some time to do the procedure. I had to move from my room in the radioactive part back to my usual chemo corridor. I didn’t really mind that because by now I already knew all the nurses and doctors and vice versa hahaha. There, they tried to lower the fever, rise the white blood cells and attack the infection. I had only one week to get better and ready for the brachytherapy. I always get a room with someone else because I like some company. The problem that you might have when you are on an oncology department is that you very often have sad people, and older people. There were some young women like me but majority were seniors. I don’t really care cause I try to laugh as much as possible anyway. The lady next to me that week was very sad and cried a lot. I understood, she was dealing with a lot. But then again, everybody in that hallway is. She looked like she was eighty but was actually younger then my mom. (but mom has lot’s of energy and she looks a lot younger then she is). She told me by seeing me and my mom, it gave her some energy. That made me happy.
The fever didn’t want to go down. Every time that I got a dafalgan it went down and after about eight hours it went up again. It drove me crazy! They did get the white blood cells up and got the infection down but not gone completely. A week further my radiation doctor decided to go through with the brachytherapy anyway. Because after all we didn’t have eternity… I have two female, young radiation doctors. They follow me up and also did the whole procedure. I like them because they quickly understood my way of dealing with it all. Jokes were allowed 🙂
It was time to move to my room again and start the brachytherapy on 2nd of October in the radioactive part. This is a part in the corridor separated by closed glass doors. There are only four rooms and they all serve for treatment with a radioactive source. There is only one room for brachytherapy for cervical cancer. The two rooms opposite of mine were for extreme radioactive treatment. They had two big doors that needed to be closed. At a certain moment the nurses were placing this blue surgical paper all over the room, even on the table, closet, chair,… I asked where it was for. Treatment of thyroid cancer, where patients need to take a iodine tablet that radiates all over their body. They have to stay in quarantine for five days in that room with doors closed. Nobody goes in, not even the nurses and not even for food. Also horror!
Me I had to stay in my room for four days. And it wasn’t a walk in the park!!!
I’m going to be very honest. If you’re sensitive and/or prude then let this part pass you by. It is not for sensitive readers :-). I am not ashamed to tell you about this specific treatment because I am not the only one who had to go through and sadly enough I won’t be the last. And it’s very simple; if you wanna heal, this is the only way to go. And I want to tell my story.
Here you see a drawing of how I looked in the room to make it a little bit more visible and to spare you from the real footage :-).
So let me now explain my piece of art. With an internal radiation of the cervix they put a big amount of radiation directly in the tumor. It has shown to be very effective and has the most chance of full healing. For this the doctors need to implant these sort of antennas into your vagina. At the end of the antennas they insert sort of needles into the tumor to implant plastic very small tubes where the radiation goes through. When everything is implanted, the whole construction of antennas is taped unto your body. And if I say taped, I mean TAPED!! Not like a small band aid, but like huge ones all over your intimate parts. (the necessary shaving is also done unless you are a sadomasochist :-)) The taping is necessary because during the time that the radiation is given those four days, it can not move. The reason for this is that the brachytherapy is specifically adapted to the tumor . The doctors really place the tubes exactly there where the tumor needs to be attacked with full power. By the way, brachytherapy is sometimes also used as a part of breast cancer treatment as well. After the vagina antennas were placed, they brought me to my room where I had to stay for four days. I had to stay in the same position during those days and wasn’t allowed to go out of bed, which was also not possible if you check my drawing, I was shackled to the machine continuously with nine cables that were connected to the radioactive machine. Every hour I had radiation for about fifteen minutes. During that time nobody was allowed in my room because I was radioactive :-). The rest of the time the door had to be closed only when visitors were there. Visitors were allowed but had to leave every time the machine started. It was a very lonely time. Even the nurses only came in when necessary. I want to say that is was peanuts but to be honest, that was my personal horror story. I couldn’t move, they emptied my intestines so that I didn’t have to go to the toilet (the big one). I had a bladder probe for the small business and the limited food that I got didn’t really taste very well. Not because of a bad cook but because of the whole situation that made me not hungry. I saw every hour of the day and every hour of the night. The second morning I had a short difficult moment. It seemed like everything that was said and had happened to me the whole past period came back. Thank God for nurses. They were so sweet! It didn’t take long, but I guess my emotions needed to come out for a second. I never really cried during my whole treatment but that morning I allowed myself a short difficult moment.
So if you want to crack a so called tough guy, just plug him onto antennas for four days with no visitors and see what happens 🙂
And to end this post with a positive note; the doctor told me that the first part of my treatment (external radiation and chemotherapy) has done its part of the work already. But for a complete result we have to wait another twelve weeks. Radiation works slowly and according to the doctor it has no use to make a scan after six weeks because it is not representative. So now off to December for the final result!