BLOGGERS: MARK SCHOLZ, MD & RALPH H. BLUM

The co-authors of Invasion of the Prostate Snatchers, blog alternate posts weekly. We invite you to post your comments.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Fifteen Days and Counting

RALPH BLUM

It’s now been three weeks of IMRT—that’s fifteen radiation treatments. The procedure is simple enough, which is somehow reassuring. I arrive Monday through Friday afternoon at the Arizona Avenue Emergency Entrance of St. John’s Health Care Center. If possible, I find a parking place on the street. Otherwise, it’s Valet Parking, with Fernando smiling broadly, “Don Rafael!” and a five-dollar deduction if I have my parking ticket stamped in the treatment center.

Making my way to the radiation unit was a challenge. On my first visits, I used my cane to hobble down a corridor lined with photographs of previous Directors of St. John’s, and stretching most of the way from Arizona to Santa Monica. Then I took an elevator down to the Garden Floor (No “Basements” here). Then another long trek, passing beneath a Commemorative Tablet honoring Vasek Polak, the prostate cancer patron (his money built the IMRT unit). Finally I arrived at the “PRESS HERE” electronic door into the Radiation wing.

With my bad knees, even using a cane, it was a long haul. And since I’ll be making it for 44 days in all, I reckoned it was time for a change. I remembered seeing a clutch of black canvas-backed, metal-framed wheelchairs just inside the door from Valet Parking. So I appealed to “Transportation.” After only a few minutes, a blue-smocked, gray haired lady volunteer arrived, settled me into a wheel chair, and wheeled me down to Radiation. And so it would continue—someone to wheel me down, someone to wheel me back, for the remaining treatments.

What an improvement! I never thought about wheelchairs before—I was never wheelchair “bound” before IMRT. I learned that the first known “dedicated” wheelchair (called an “invalid’s chair”) was made in 1595 for Phillip II of Spain by an unknown inventor. I bless his unknown memory as the wheels turn and I ride at ease.

The aide parks me just inside the door of the bright comfortable waiting room. There are usually several people sitting in the lounge chairs, reading out of date magazines, waiting for a friend or family member to return from treatment. Or waiting to stretch out and fit into their own treatment mold.

The routine is the same every day. I sit in the waiting room until collected by James or another radiation tech or nurse, who takes me into the changing area and hands me a blue, open–in-the-rear, cotton garment to change into. Then I am escorted through the Ops area (Computer screens frozen on the vast Ion Chamber, charts and graphs, the empty, waiting slide) and into the treatment room with its futuristic cyclorama unit where I am settled into my custom-fitted lower body mold. My three tattoos are aligned with the brilliant green, needle-thin laser beam, followed by my daily MRI. And when all is aligned,  the canned Tchaikovsky starts up, and the whirring of gears announces that the flow of electrons has begun. The zapping itself is surprisingly brief: my prostate is receiving radiation for barely two minutes.

Once a week, Dr. Chaiken and one of the nurses interviewed me: Any pain? Blood in urine? Rectal discomfort? Urinary problems? They each repeat the same questions. Covering the bases twice, just to make sure. I had no unwelcome side-effects. More important, I now believe,  I never felt anxious. Never felt a sliver of doubt. I knew that all would be well.

Only twenty-nine or thirty treatments to go.

1 comment:

Michael said...

Ralph, Thank you for posting about your experiences. I have a lower grade of PC, and was fortunate to find the "Snatchers" book which saved me much grief and uncertainty. I'm in the process of getting a second opinion from the best people I can find in my area. I'm committed to driving my own ship and am not remotely inclined to consider treatment at this point. But, it is a relief and a huge help to me to read of your treatment experiences. Gives me hope that if I do commit to treatment at some point, there is at least one reasonable option. I think you are doing fine and, like it or not, you are moving into a 'mentor' spot for me.
Non Illegitimi carborundum (or so I learned in the Navy).
My thoughts go with you.