Ah, here I am, on the other side of treatment. It seemed so far away, but now that it’s here, it’s kind of surreal.
The whole event itself was rather anticlimactic. I spent six weeks going through absolute physical and emotional hell to prepare my body to swallow one radioactive pill that was about the same size as an amoxicillan. Well, okay, here’s how it went down, for those who are curious about what it’s like to be radioactive.
I got to the hospital on Tuesday morning and checked in. Blood work was ordered. Blood was drawn. We waited for about 30 minutes while they got all the numbers they needed. We spoke with a doctor who gave me my list of restrictions and told me I’d need “three days of separation.” For example, I couldn’t be within six feet of anyone. I couldn’t be around pets. I had to flush the toilet twice each time I used it, and drink as much water as I possibly could, constantly, to flush the extra radiation out of my system. The doctor wanted me to “burn a hole in the carpet by the bathroom door.” Too much information? Probably. I had to shower, not take baths. I had to eat off of plastic plates and silverware. I couldn’t dish up, or touch food that others were sharing so my mom dished up all my food, put it on a plastic plate and had me eat in a different room. All the sheets and clothes I used have to be washed separately but otherwise I’m good to go. The hardest part was that I had to keep on my diet for another day after I swallowed the pill. This pissed me off quite a bit, because that diet is horrible and I hated every second I was on it.
The doctor anticipated my first question (I guess everyone asks it): When can I eat normal food again? Then he said, “Let me guess. The first thing you want to eat is a bacon cheeseburger.” Yep. Hit the nail on the head with that one. For two weeks I’ve been dreaming about a bacon cheeseburger, which is weird because I haven’t eaten that kind of food in YEARS and I’ve lost 50 pounds, which I did NOT lose by eating crap. After two weeks of minimal salt and eating only 10 different foods, all I could think about was eating a damn burger. The doctor said, “I’ve been doing this for twenty years and I have yet to meet a patient who doesn’t dream about eating the same exact thing when they go off the diet.” Kind of funny. I still haven’t eaten my burger. I probably will this weekend.
Anyway, I signed all the papers and the doctor informed me that I had to wait 30 minutes while the radioactive pharmacy (I didn’t even know there was such a thing) drew up my dose and brought it to them. 30 minutes later, some guy brought up my pill in a metal suitcase. It was all very SciFi. The nurse called me back to the room where they dose people and gave me a cup of water. She had me stand behind a really thick wall of glass to take my pill, which I had to tip from the cup into my mouth – I wasn’t allowed to actually touch it – and wash it down with a ton of water. When she was sure it went down all the way, I had to walk past a geiger counter to make sure all was good and I was done. It took about 30 seconds. Six weeks of preparation to swallow a little gray pill you’d never guess was radioactive. Fun aside, my brother is a Nuclear Medicine Tech and he told me that the reason I had to stand behind a thick wall of glass to take the pill is if I had thrown up on the nurse, she wouldn’t have been able to work for two weeks after.
My husband drove me (I had to sit in the back seat, as far away from him as possible) to my parents house, about an hour north, where I’ve been holed up in the basement passing the days and hours basically not talking to a soul unless I have had to. He’s “FaceTimed” me a few times so I have been able to talk to him and Fiona while I’ve been up here, but I miss them dearly. They are driving up here today to get me (Quarantine is over. Yay!) and I positively cannot wait to go home and see my kid again.
Other than that, the hardest part of this treatment has been the boredom. Thankfully, I haven’t been restricted from my computer. Yesterday I started writing, and in one day I wrote roughly 26,000 words in a book I didn’t anticipate starting. It’ll never see the light of day (No books I ever write do. I seem to write novels more for myself than anyone else and I have no desire to ever get them published.) The first two days I was feeling pretty sick (a side effect of being radioactive) so I watched House of Cards on Netflix Streaming all day. Great show, by the way. The nausea is gone, but I am left with some pretty bad pain in my neck, on the left side, right where the doctor was watching all my cancer cells do weird things. I guess that’s what it feels like when you kill off part of your body. I don’t mind. It makes me feel like all of this was worth it. It’s the kind of pain that makes me feel so incredibly satisfied and pleased. It’s the pain that means that important things are dying, just like everyone hoped they would. Plus, it’s normal. I have also had some decreased saliva, which isn’t fun or comfortable. It’s normal, though, and I’ve been sucking on sour candies to stimulate saliva production. The pain and saliva thing could last a few days, or a few weeks. Who knows.
On Tuesday I go for my scan. I am very, very excited to be told that, for the first time since I was diagnosed in October 2010, I am 100% cancer free. There is a small chance that that won’t be the case, but I highly doubt it. I refuse to take anything less than cancer free as an answer. I’m done with this. I’m ready to graduate from Cancer Fighter to Cancer Survivor. It’s time to take my life back.
Perhaps the most amazing part of all of this is how incredibly different I feel right now. While I still have absolutely no energy, the fog that has been plaguing my mind is lifting. I can think clearly again. It felt like I was being held underwater and moving in slow motion before. Now my head has broken the surface, and while I still feel like I’m moving in slow motion, at least I can think clearly again and the miasma of illogical depression is a thing of the past. It feels great. Plus, I never realized how wonderful eating food was until I could start eating it again. Wow. Everything I was sick of before is like mana from Heaven now. Two days ago I started taking my hormones again, which is the main reason I’ve been sick. They are slow acting, so it will take weeks for me to fully feel them, but at least I can take them again. This is a huge step for me, because it means that I’m on the downward slope of this fight. While I don’t feel the hormones kicking in yet, at least they are in there, churning in my system, building up and waiting to kick in. Soon, very soon, I’ll be a functional human being. The light at the end of the tunnel is so close it’s blinding, and it’s the best damn feeling I’ve ever felt.
Hope. It’s infectious and incredible and all I want to do is bathe in the sensation of it flooding my system.
What does this mean for the blog, reviewing and the like? Well, I have a lot to catch up on. There’s a lot I’ve kept waiting in my inbox because I was too sick, and struggling too much to focus on it. It will take days and days to catch up on all of my email, as I easily have a couple hundred waiting for me. So if you’ve written me, please be patient. It also means that I need to catch up on reviews. However, to keep myself from being overwhelmed by all of this, I’m going to take it slow. I’ll get there, I promise. But it will take some time.
I’m also starting to plan my theme month, which is going to focus on the importance of non western cultures in SFF. I’m getting a list together of people to bug, so a bunch of you can be expecting THAT email sometime in the coming weeks.
And that’s pretty much that.
I fought. I endured. I conquered.