Tuesday, July 5, 2011

"Lead Ball Clamp" And Other Fun Stuff

Disaster averted. I called the drs office this morning and they were able to get the insurance issue straightened out. It was, I'm told, a coding error after all. So I only spent a few hours at work today before heading off to sibley hospital to get my first radiation treatment. Or so I thought.

A slight digression.  Once you have chosen radiation therapy at Sibley, you are given a barcoded card (basically a library card) and when you get to the cancer center you scan the barcode at a handheld scanner/barcode reader station, and proceed to the dressing room.  The dressing rooms (there are two, one for men & one for women) contain three changing rooms, six small lockers, and one bathroom.  One bathroom.  Did I mention nausea is one of the primary side effects of radiation therapy?  And there is only one bathroom for the dozens of nauseous patients who come & go during each of my visits.  Anyway, in the changing room I have to get naked, put on an "open in the back" hospital gown, and then a hospital robe, and then put my shoes back on.  There isn't a good place to hang your clothes in the room (although valuables go in one of the small lockers and you keep the key),  but there is a coat rack outside the dressing rooms where I will be hanging my suits.

So after checking in (barcode) and changing, I come out of the dressing room in hospital gown & robe, wearing dress shoes.  You know something is the matter with you when you're looking like that big of an ass.

Digression over.  So today while sitting in my hospital gown/robe/dress shoes attire, sitting in the waiting room with Julie, I get called back.  Here we go, showtime, going to get my tattoos for triangulation and my first dose of radiation.  Or not.  Instead the two very nice nurses/technicians take me back to the machine that will be blasting me from the top and bottom, and tell me today will just be x-rays to confirm the physicist has correctly pinpointed the blast zones of my abdomen.  Still I have to disrobe and take off my shoes, leaving the on the open in the back gown, and get on the radiation table.  The mold of my upper back they took last week is there and I have to get back into the same position as before.

Instead of high levels of radiation I was just getting low level x-rays, but they still take the same precautions as the real thing, which means my sole remaining testicle (righty) gets placed in a lead ball clamp.  Probably the most frightening part of all of this is having the nurses raise my ball and place it in the cold metal cup, then start screwing the top down over it.  I was telling Julie, as we waited for the bus home today, more women have held my ball and penis in the last 12 months than all the other years put together.

It's cold and uncomfortable.  Your hands are behind you gripping handle bars, and you are of course trying not to move, and you have a big lead ball attached to your... ball. The head of the radiation machine is about the size of an extra-large pizza, and it rotates on an arm top to bottom, coming very close as it does so.  The pizza head stays on top first to blast the radiation, then rotates under me to black from my back, and then I'll be done.

So that's what I have to look forward to tomorrow morning at 7:45 am.  Tattoos and my first radiation dose.  Schedule changes a few times but for the most part the treatments are at 8:15 am.  Treatment runs through the first week of August, I think August 3rd is my last scheduled treatment date with the possibility of 4-5 additional doses thereafter.

I'm probably making this sound worse than it is.  Sibley's cancer center is very nice, seems state-of-the-art, and this sounds like it will be much less intense than chemo.  The early morning treatments (and my side effects) will throw off my work out routine, I'm not pleased about that, but I've taken a few weeks off for vacations and such before.  I still plan to run in the mornings, but my 5-7 miles average will probably switch to 2-3.

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