Friday, July 3, 2009

9 - Radiation Weeks 6-8

Radiation week 6

The next few weeks flow by uneventfully. In week 6, we have to skip a two days of treatment, plus the following weekend, because the skin is so badly burned. This gives it five days to recover from the last dose before we mistreat it again.

In general, the skin is pretty raw at the beam entrances. To assuage the sunburn, one uses special soaking solutions called Domeboro Soaks. These are soothing, warm then cold, several times a day. When they dry, on goes the gunk, a cream the name of which I have forgotten, but there were several of them to try. Rubbing that in to badly burned skin is not so much fun.

Aside: If you mistreat skin enough, particularly burn it enough to get rid of the top layers several times, you can actually get rid of persistent skin infections like psoriasis that have resisted treatment for years. Nothing, apparently, can resist this level of mistreatment. It's effective, but I don't recommend the cure unless there's a compelling reason to suffer through it.

Radiation week 8

Finally, the end. Week 8. This is the week when I'm scheduled to have the last chemo to go with the radiation. Chemo 2 consists of only the 5FU, again pumped in over four days, Monday to Friday. Remarkably and thankfully, this time there are no mouth sores. The chemical oncologist says that the first treatment aroused my immune system, which is then able to resist the effects the second time around.

This is it. No more quotidian trips to the lead-lined cellar to be irradiated. I buy a small present for the nurses and techs that have been so solicitous during my forty visits, some new music for the CD player that they run constantly.

Aside: later on, I get the doctor a little present, too. Long ago I ran across a book called "American Ground Zero" about the above-ground A-bomb testing program in the forties and fifties in Nevada. What first got my attention was that St. George, Utah, was directly in the path of the fallout clouds in many cases. St. George is one of my favorite places, a nice little town near Zion National Park amid the beautiful red sandstones of southern Utah. The government at the time considered that area to be a "low-use segment of the population," whatever such officialese might mean. People were not told to avoid the dust. Teachers took kids outside the school buildings so that they could see the cloud coming over, so they could participate in the historic event, for instance. The book is testimony from survivors of the blasts, and from relatives of the non-survivors who died of various cancers over the years. Filled with memorable vignettes such as the schoolgirl who used to write in the (fallout) dust on top of the cars. "The dust burned my fingers," she recalls. People were told to be sure to brush the dust off their livestock, but not off their children. It seems to me a book that a radiation oncologist ought to have in his library.

1 comment:

  1. Rick,
    In the last para above,check out the sentence below starting with "Teachers". I believe it should be.....buildings SO that they.......

    I'm still reading.

    Steve D.
    People were not told to avoid the dust. Teachers took kids outside the school buildings to that they could see the cloud coming over