Dec 18, 2011 - 3:59 pm
In case anyone is interested, here is how my first round of brachy went with two more to go.
My appointment was at 1:00 on Friday. They were a little late getting me in. I met with the nurse and went over all the usual stuff, allergies, drugs I’m on, any issues. An aide took me to a room that resembled a bank vault, double doored, the second door was obviously meant to keep the radiation in. The room wasn’t totally stark; they had a couple of flat screen TV’s on the wall, a closet to put my personal effects in and an xray machine.
I was able to leave my top on but had to remove my pants and underwear. The table was like an exam table, not uncomfortable; the stirrups weren’t like when you have at a regular pelvic, you actually rested your calves in them and they strapped your legs down. My lower half was covered with blankets.
Since my regular radiologist doesn’t do brachytherapy, I was given a pelvic exam by the new one. I’m not sure if that is normal or not. After that, the nurse inserted a catheter which is unusual to do (so I was told) when a patient is awake. It didn’t really hurt but it was a weird feeling and you could definitely feel the tube moving around in there. It’s my understanding that the catheter is used to measure how much radiation your bladder is getting or to identify where it’s at in regard to the radiation site, or something like that. I will not have to get a catheter on the second and third treatments.
The radiologist asked me if I wanted to see what she was inserting in me which of course I did (always curious). It was a hard plastic cylinder that looked like a super large tampon with a long thin rod on the end of it. Apparently this cylinder comes in different sizes and they want the biggest one you can handle, maybe to prevent leakage?
…and that’s when everything went to hell. Or at least that’s when my blissful, no big deal attitude took a nose dive. It hurt…alot. The radiologist kept saying is it pinching? Is there too much pressure? It wasn’t pinching and there wasn’t too much pressure…it just hurt like a son of a gun.
After it was inserted and they secured it so it would slide out, two x-ray technicians came in to take x-rays. The nurse put a wire inside my catheter so it would show up on the x-ray. I thought I was going to have to remain in the stirrups during the entire procedure but instead they just had me lay flat with my legs slightly bent then lowered my legs a little which didn’t help the pain any. I had to lie very still while they took x-rays from various positions. It probably took 10 minutes. In the meantime, I was not a happy camper because even with this cylinder inside me…it still hurt like hell. I wonder if I’m already shrinking up.
After they took the xrays they spent some time in the other room reviewing them then the physicist came in, introduced herself and gave me the spiel about how they would insert the radiation using a machine (never actually saw the machine, but was told it was like an r2d2). They all left the room after turning the TV on to distract me, I suppose. There was some vibration from between my legs and a red light on the wall went on which was the start of the radiation, though I think they did a test run first just to make sure everything was going where they wanted it to go.
Five minutes later, a green light came on which indicated they were done. Since I was flat on my back I couldn’t really see what’s going on “down there”, but at that point I realized I wasn’t covered up by anything. The physicist ran what I assume was a Geiger counter over me checking for radiation, the nurse pulled out the catheter and wire which was no big deal and then the radiologist pulled out that giant tampon looking thing which hurt almost as bad coming out as it did going in.
Once everyone left, the nurse cleaned all the goop off of me and brought me my clothes and that was it. I was back in my car and driving home by 2:20. The other sessions promise to be shorter…no cath…not sure about getting xrays.
Now, having read some accounts on the experience of others with regard to this treatment I think it’s safe to say that just like everything else, it varies from person to person. It sounds like even the actual treatments are different depending on where you go.
As far as the pain goes, I should point out that I’ve never had children and even the radiologist commented on that. I think it’s much less painful or even pain free if you have had children. The radiation doesn’t hurt at all and I’ve had absolutely zero side effects, other than some minor spotting and drainage.
I’m not sure if my experience will help anyone else but it might prepare you. I went in calm as could be, but now I’m dreading my next two treatments. I took an Ibprofen an hour before I was treated at their recommendation in case I had cramping, but next time I’ll dig out the narcotics and wash them down with a few glasses of wine. Oh that’s right my treatment is in the morning…maybe a screwdriver or bloody mary instead...make that a double please. Oh the joy.