I haven’t written about the radiation treatments lately. So, on this “low Saturday”, I thought I’d take a moment to catch you up and share something…intimate with you! First off, I am crossed the halfway point on this round of treatments. After yesterday’s dosage, I now have 9 down, 6 to go. That means that I will done a week from Monday. So far, the side effects haven’t reared their ugly heads. I have really had NONE. (But last time, the side effects from radiation didn’t show up until I was done, so…!)
I can’t eat or drink anything for three hours prior to the daily treatments. Which means, by the time I’m done with a treatment, I need to eat something. And yet, I can’t really swallow a lot of really solid food these days. So, we have started a “tradition”- we drive to the Checkers fast food restaurant down the road where I get a chocolate shake! Call it late lunch!
But there is a general side effect to cancer treatments that I realize cancer patients don’t really talk about. It deals with, shall we say, “gastro-intestinal issues”. Yep- constipation and/or diarrhea. They have been something I have dealt with relatively constantly since I first started chemo and radiation back in June of last year.
Constipation is the primary issue. And while we have all dealt with that at times in our lives, it’s different when you deal with pretty much all the time. And it turns out that it’s a pretty delicate balance. You GET it. You try to treat it without going overboard. You slowly escalate the treatment approach over a couple/few days. And then, suddenly, you’ve swung too far the OTHER way!
So, you adjust your diet (BRAT- bananas, rice, applesauce and toast) and you stop the treatment you WERE doing. And you your body starts to swing back to “center”. And for a few days…all is well. And then your body starts to swing back toward constipation. And the vicious circle starts all over again!
When you deal with NOT going on a regular basis, you’d be shocked at the impact it has on how you feel. (Hint- it’s NOT good!) And when you swing too far the other way, you fell SO much better…but you can’t stray too far from a bathroom! (Darn!)
I share this, embarrassing as it is, because I find that most cancer patients are A. quick to compare notes on the subjects with their fellow patients and B. reluctant to share at all with “civilians”. (See note on “embarrassing”!) And I get all of that. But it’s important for people to understand what cancer patients deal with. I think it helps. I think it’s also good to remind cancer patients and their caregivers that you are not in this alone. You are not the only one experiencing these things. Others understand and are willing to walk the journey with you.
As I said, it’s NOT the most pleasant of conversations to have…or to share! But’s it’s pretty universal to cancer patients. And if I am going to continue to be committed to being transparent about my prognosis, treatment and circumstances, I needed to share that, too! The good, the bad and…the UGLY!
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