Cancer Journal 7, 2019

Radiation treatment number five is now history, with only twenty-five of the scheduled thirty left. As I sat waiting to be called in for my treatment yesterday, a nurse wheeled in a very frail, old man to the waiting room. A few minutes later, a thirty-ish guy and a twenty-ish woman joined him to wait, even though the waiting room is for patients only. The two of them reeked of cigarette smoke. If the old man was being treated for lung cancer, the two people with him are slow on the uptake. As was I, of course; Dad died of lung cancer. That should have triggered my “cease and desist” reflex, but didn’t.  Maybe thirty-somethings are just not sufficiently wise to understand the realities of cause and effect. Maybe I wasn’t smart enough at thirty-one, when my father died, to take the long view forward. But, it’s not always smokers who get lung cancer. But that’s no excuse for ignoring the obvious. Oh, well, I cannot change history. At least it only took me twenty more years to stop, when I was fifty-one.

Last night, for the first time, my wife and I rubbed salve on my chest and back in an effort to minimize the effects of the radiation treatment on my skin. The radiation technicians and nurses told me I can expect to start feeling the burning discomfort on my skin after around two weeks of treatment; the thick, clear salve should (I hope) minimize that. At about the same time, I gather, I might start feeling more and more fatigue from the radiation. I do not look forward to that. As it is, ever since my surgery in mid-November, I’ve had regular cycles of fatigue. One day I’m fine, the next I’m beat and want to do nothing but sit in a chair or sleep.

Our neighbors came over, at my invitation, yesterday afternoon for hors d’ouevres and wine. I had invited them several days ago. By the time they arrived, I was feeling myself spin down toward fatigue. I put on a brave face until they left, though, and then collapsed in my chair. I had asked my oncologist’s office if I could have an “occasional” glass of wine during chemo. The word came back: VERY occasional, not daily, not necessarily even weekly. I drank a glass yesterday. Maybe that contributed to my fatigue. Well, no more wine for a while yet.

Today, after radiation, I meet with the radiological oncologist for a few minutes. I’m not sure what to expect; maybe an update on what, if anything, the X-rays reveals. The techs shoot two X-rays every visit, along with the focused radiation beam regimen. I should be more interested to know exactly what is happening to my body during this process. I wonder why I’m not as curious as normally I would be?

Yesterday was an odd day in that I felt considerably more pain in my chest and side than usual. It was the stabbing, throbbing pain that causes me to twitch and makes my wife think I have the hiccups. It’s not severe, but sufficiently disruptive to interrupt my routine and cause others (occasionally) to notice. I don’t think the radiologist is the one to ask. It’s the surgeon. I may send him an email today. He’s the only doctor who has given me both his email address and his cell phone number and who told me to feel free to contact him with any questions. And he responded to the few I sent him. I respect and appreciate him for that.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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