Open Gowns, Cradles & Balloons - My First Cancer Treatment - Pappy's Pen #10

*Note - This article was written by Kevin Dougherty. This post is part of a continuing series called Pappy’s Pen where he writes about his family, faith and recent cancer diagnosis. *

*Note - This article was written by Kevin Dougherty. This post is part of a continuing series called Pappy’s Pen where he writes about his family, faith and recent cancer diagnosis.*

Well, I have to admit that I was the most apprehensive about yesterday’s visit as I was at any time during this whole experience.  Even more nervous than before my surgery.  I wasn’t fully mentally prepared or prayed up.  I was more focused on my parent’s situation than my own, and since there wasn’t really anything I could do about it I was flustered. Thank goodness there were others standing with me.

The whole “fitting” experience was not nearly as bad as I had anticipated.  The staff at the cancer center couldn’t have been more welcoming or helpful.  Even when my private areas stopped being private and started becoming semi-public. The only way to describe it is to, well, try and describe it.  They call it a cradle, but it is more like an inflatable raft you use while swimming. It’s blue colored and body sized. I laid on it, with a pad where my bottom went.  The reason for the pad became apparent later.  It was flat, like the raft hadn’t been inflated.  

My nakedness was covered with a small cloth, I was wrapped in plastic, and a hose was inserted between me and the plastic.  The air was then sucked out, kind of like one of these space saving storage packs for clothes and pillows.  From the waist down it was like I was cocooned.  Really tight, which caused the raft thing to form fit around me. The plastic was then removed and I was left with a blue plastic cradle, form fitted.  It holds me in place so that the radiation can be directed in the same place each treatment.  I asked if I could keep the cradle when treatment is completed but was told they are cleaned, sanitized, returned to their original shape and reused.  

Before I was wrapped and cocooned I had a balloon inserted.  Yes, my friends, the doctor put a balloon into my rectum and inflated it with water.  At least the water was warm.  Very strange sensation, having a balloon put in your butt and inflated. There were 5 people besides me in the room where this is done, the doctor, a CT scan person, 2 nurses and an intern.  I asked the intern if it was his job to blow up the balloon but he was just there to observe.  And there wasn’t any part of me that couldn’t be observed as this was happening.  

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The balloon was mildly uncomfortable and exerted pressure, but not like when the doctor does a prostate exam.  Not as bad as when I was scoped for the biopsy, which I was afraid of.  I was supposed to drink water to have a full bladder prior to the MRI and am supposed to do so before the treatments and I couldn’t imagine holding my bladder for over an hour with that in me.  All this is supposed to hold everything in the same place during treatments.  A CT scan was performed so the doctor could make sure everything was as it should be.  They recorded the position of and amount of water in the balloon so that it could be reproduced each time. But when the balloon was removed?  That is what the pad is for.  There was a small mess, and I scrambled to the nearest bathroom to clean up.  

After that, my cradle and I made the journey to the MRI room.  I was cradled up, another balloon was inserted, and I underwent an MRI.  I was told the balloons weren’t reused like the cradle was, thank goodness.  I had an IV put in and at some point during the MRI contrast was added to the IV. Very strange feeling, like ice is being held against your skin where the IV is put in.  Between the icy feeling, the very loud noises the machine makes, and the tight space I almost forgot I had a balloon in my butt.  Almost.  The balloon was removed and another mad scramble to the bathroom for cleanup in aisle 2.  Apparently they keep a good stock of washcloths in the cancer center.  

I am very impressed by the people working in the cancer center.  I’m not sure how they do it.  They are so pleasant, even when concentrating on putting in or removing gross balloons. No judgement.  There are numerous old people shuffling around in gowns, either waiting for their turn or going to and fro.  Afterward I thought I should be praying for these other people but I have to admit I didn’t.  Didn’t even think of it, just was focused on myself.  I’ll have to remember to do that in the future, I have so many people praying for me the least I can do is to pass some of those prayers on to others in the same position.  Really, I now have an appreciation for the staff and nurses that I never had before. I will have to think of a way to show my appreciation when all this is done.  Maybe a balloon bouquet. 

Speaking of people praying for me, my wife and I decided to put on Facebook the fact we were on this journey.  We also put a link to my son-in-law’s ministry site ( and this blog.  Immediately my wife’s phone blew up.  So many people offering prayers and concern.  We were blown away. Thank you all for this, it means a lot. 

5 more treatments, 5 more balloons, 5 more cleanups.  Knowing I am not walking this alone will help me make it.  

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