I woke up in my own bed this morning. The cat decided to go outside even though I had to push the snow away with the bottom of the door as I opened it. The furnace kicked on, which is a sound that I love, and I am drinking coffee from an actual cup.
On Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday morning, of this week I was in a city, in a hotel, sharing a suite with a woman I did not know, but who was very nice. I was having my radiation therapy. It was the easiest thing I've gone through on this whole journey.
For $33.00 a night, I got to stay at this hotel and received three meals a day. I also had the benefit of catching a shuttle van that ran every half hour between the hospital and the hotel. I drove myself to the hotel. I did not see the point of husband coming along with me, as I knew I'd be sharing with someone else and he would have been bored out of his mind. So he stayed home and took care of my three chickens and the cats were happy because he let them come up to our bedroom at night.
It was a bit like a secret society, as every person who boarded the shuttle van carried with them a blue folder. We all had "the blue folder" which comes from the hospital's radiation department and has all your necessary information and schedule in it. Some people had been doing this routine for a couple of weeks now, and for me it was brand new. Everyone gets the weekend off. I drove back home at 10:00 yesterday morning, all done my treatment and fully checked out of the hotel. Some people had family members coming to retrieve them and take them back home and others, like me, drove themselves. We are all out-of-towners, hence the reason we were at the hotel.
I will drive (with husband this time) back on Monday for my last session (just five days altogether - again fortunate) and an appointment with my very nice oncologist. Then I am done. Many, many others are not so fortunate and have plenty of sessions to go, as well as chemo. I have felt an incredible amount of gratitude this week.
The suite in which I stayed had a kitchen with oven, full sized fridge, microwave, small dishwasher, kettle, coffee maker, and the necessary kitchen items one would need to eat or prepare basic meals. Yes, the hotel provides meals, but I imagine for someone on their third week there, they would be plenty tired of the selection (you don't have a choice, just the same meal for everyone unless you have dietary restrictions). I hear those people come on Monday with boxes of food for the week, so they can have their own comforts.
The suite also has a large sitting room with a couch, a big television, and a little table at which you could eat. I did not spend any time there, as the bedroom had its own television. There were two bathrooms, so my "suite mate" and I each had our own, which was a blessing for her, as she was going through some tough moments with her particular kind of cancer. Of course, towels, soaps, shampoo, etc. were all provided.
As I said, this hotel was in the city, and actually right "down town" and so the traffic and many sirens, and sounds of people was quite constant through the daytime hours. While I was there, a large snowfall occurred, so the sound of snow removal equipment woke me in the early hours as well. In a way, however, it was comforting to have the sounds of life around me, so I didn't feel alone. My "suite mate" kept to herself, she was tired and worn out, and so we each just did our own thing and pretty much stayed in our rooms, unless it was mealtime, where someone knocked on the door to the suite and delivered our meals (in styrofoam containers). We transferred our food to regular plates to heat them up in the microwave as inevitably, they were cooled down by the time they got to us. So she and I would have a little visit in the kitchen, and then return to our rooms to watch something on Netflix while we ate our meals. I didn't mind this routine. I wasn't there to make a new friend, and my heart went out to her and I felt fortunate all over again.
This past week, I read Elly Griffiths' Night Hawks which was fantastic, for all you Elly Griffiths fans. I also watched the entire short series on Netflix called "Inside Man" with David Tennant and Stanley Tucci. It was so good and I recommend it!
When the shuttle bus pulled up to the Cancer Clinic doorway at the hospital (HUGE hospital), we all would get out, take a number from a little machine on the wall and wait to be called up to the reception desk. They would check our schedule, highlight today's session in yellow highlighter and then we could proceed into the inner depths of the clinic where we would change into a hospital robe, sometimes just partially, depending on what part of your body is being irradiated, and wait to be called again. Everyone there is genuinely nice and caring and you start to feel like part of the gang after a while. The thing that struck me, however, was the paintings of trees and cute animals and super heroes, etc. on the walls, which of course meant that children were also receiving treatments, although I didn't see any while I was there.
For those of you who have no idea what the procedure is to receive radiation treatment, I took a picture (I asked if I could) of the contraption that does the magic.
And there is it, the machine that goes "ping" for all you Monty Python fans. So, for me with breast cancer, I would put my bottom in the end of that white sheet that you can see in the picture and my legs rested in the grooves of the blue thing you see at the end. My arms rested on those red pads you see at the top of the "bed". I was quite comfortable, and they make sure that you are comfortable. The giant apparatus slides out from it's cave in the wall and surrounds you and can turn as well. I have no idea how close it gets to you, because I just closed my eyes through the session. You can tell when you are being "zapped" because there is a whiney sound that happens. The two radiologists (techs?) are in another room speaking to you through a speaker. You can hear them and they can hear you. In my case, I had to take deep breaths in and hold them while I was being "zapped". They told me when to hold and when to breath normally. (it's to provide more room between where I'm being "zapped" and my heart, as my cancer was on the left side). The longest I had to hold my breath, I think, took me the time to count to 42 in my head. I would have three sessions altogether for each treatment. Honestly, it took longer to position me correctly than it did to receive the radiation treatment. It was completely painless and I was in and out of there in less than fifteen minutes. The hardest part was the breath holding because there was always one particularly long "zapping" each time. They had music playing in the background and on the last day, it was Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" and I found myself tapping my foot a bit and had to stop myself lest I move a bit and mess things up.
So... as I said, I'm in the grateful stage of my journey. Grateful that for the most part it is over, grateful that my story is so different from other people in the hotel who are having radiation and chemo at the same time and look weary and worn out. Grateful that I can resume my normal life and carry on with very little worry about my future (don't think I can ever say 100% worry free, but that's to be expected).
I intend for this to be my last post about my cancer journey. I need to move forward. I thought I would share this one, in case anyone reading this ever has to have radiation therapy, or has a friend or family member who has to have it, just as an information post, so you/they don't have to be afraid, because it's "easy peasy" as I texted to my own children.
I thank every one of you who has been reading along through my journey and has provided positive thoughts and comments and even shared your own journeys. Have a contented weekend, all!