Hello Nurse! - Pappy's Pen #12

*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.*

I had my third radiation treatment today, or as I now call them: wrap and zap.  I go in to the radiation center, meet with the nurses, take a steroid to help reduce inflammation, and get into a gown.  I will see the doctor sometime, either before or after treatment.  I then go into the radiation room, a large room with a monster machine mounted on the wall and a table that is attached to it.  The monster machine has five attachments coming out of it that rotate around the table like a giant roulette wheel.  One of the attachments shoots the radiation, the rest have a sort of CT machine and who knows what else. 

My cradle is on the table with a fresh pad each session.  You do remember what the pad is for, don’t you?  I can’t forget.  I lay on the cradle, get covered by a towel, and have my gown rolled up to my chest.  Then the nurse brings out “the balloon”.  The balloon helps hold everything in place inside. The worst part of the whole treatment is getting the balloon inserted and removed afterward, not to complain.  It just is, so you know the treatment itself is not bad. I then get wrapped in plastic from my waist down and have all the air sucked out.  Like a giant freezer saver bag.  The plastic even forms around my toes.  I couldn’t move if I wanted to. 

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Speaking of toes, I used them to deliver a message to the main nurse, aka “balloon lady”.  I had Nancy paint each toenail a different color and then write hello to her on my toes.  She has a five letter name so it fit perfectly.  They could hear her laughter in the waiting room.  The doctor even laughed, which considering the seriousness of her job made me happy.  I was glad we could bring a little joy to them in a stressful job. I had done this once before in a church Easter production of the last supper, when Jesus was to wash my feet.  Quite the solemn production. I now imagine that when I meet Jesus for real I will come lay my crown at His feet and His toes will be painted and say “Hello Kevin”.  What a glorious day that will be.

After I am wrapped up and secured, the table is placed within the machine, with the five attachments coming out from the wall circling the table.  Under, around, and over.  The machine rotates around the table taking a CT scan.  Using the scan, I am lined up into the correct position and the zapping starts.  One of the attachments shoots a radiation bean towards the gold targets in my prostate.  I don’t feel a thing, other than the uncomfortableness of the balloon and being wrapped up. 

The machine makes a low volume hum the entire time, so I really don’t know when the radiation is being produced or not.  Every few minutes the machine rotates and starts another round of radiation.  After four times rotating the machine totally rotates again, taking another CT image to realign me and the table.  The process starts over again with four positions being used.  At that time the table, with me still securely fastened to it, is rotated 90 degrees for a final shot of radiation.  The entire time I get to listen to music of my choice.  If it wasn’t for the balloon I could fall asleep. 

When the treatment is complete, which takes between 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on how long it takes to get me properly situated, I am unwrapped, deflated, and removed.  Then it’s a mad shuffle to the restroom for cleanup and I get dressed and go home.  Or out to eat.  I’m usually pretty hungry since I can’t eat anything after 10 the night before. 

The only side effect I am feeling is a weariness.  I’m not sure if it is from a disrupted sleep pattern caused by the steroids I have to take to keep down inflammation, or from the energy my body is using to heal the damage from the treatment.  Probably both.  No pain, just tiredness.  I am very grateful for that and I thank God each treatment. 

Jesus promises to give rest to the weary, and I can attest He does.  So far I have not had to make any significant changes to my lifestyle because of the cancer or treatment.  I am still working, still spending time with my family, still falling asleep each night on the coach.  Some things never change.  Only two more treatments left.