It's Dec. 3, 2013, the Tuesday of my second week of treatments, and I'm having a hard time not thinking that every hangnail isn't the result of my now-completed first five days of The Process.
For example, I'm having trouble sleeping. I'm writing this at 4:15 a.m. and am already dressed and ready to go. In fact, if the gym opened before 6 a.m. I would have already left for an extended workout.
I'm pretty sure the early rising is mostly the result of my going to bed so early the night before plus my typical limited need for sleep (six hours has been a long night's rest since high school). But that was before I started thinking that radiation was the root cause of everything I was feeling.
I have a slight headache this morning. It's probably because I slept funny last night, or maybe it's because of yesterday's workout that focused on my neck, shoulders and upper back. It almost certainly will be gone by the time my workout is over in a few hours.
But given that I've repeatedly been told that I'll start to feel the side effects this week, I'm having a hard time not seeing and feeling symptoms where, if I'm honest with myself, there's nothing yet to see or feel. I keep waiting for the skin where I'm receiving the radiation to start looking and feeling like it's sunburned and am already using the salves dermatologist #1 and the hospital have recommended to deal with it.
I'm also anticipating the sore throat that all of my doctors have told me will make swallowing very uncomfortable. I already have the pain medication to deal with it but haven't needed it yet because... well... my throat hasn't been sore and swallowing hasn't been a problem.
Part of me wants to these side effects to be so mild that they're barely noticeable. As I told the radiation oncology resident I see after my treatment every Monday, one of my goals is to have everyone say I did better with The Process than any other patient they've ever seen go through it. I want a medical journal article to be published about how well I did. There's got to be a speaking tour in this somewhere and maybe even a made-for-TV movie.
And I want to live up to The BTW's recent prediction -- no doubt made mostly to keep my spirits up -- that I would "breeze through" the eight weeks of treatment.
On the other hand, there's also a part of me that wants at least some of the side effects to start just so I know the treatment is progressing, that it's having some effect and I'm that I'm that much closer to the end than the beginning.
In addition to my daily workout and radiation session (I now consider them both to be part of The Process), on the agenda today are calls to my massage therapist, and chiropractor-acupuncturist. The resident yesterday approved my doing all of these things so I'm moving ahead today to make them happen. I'm especially eager to talk to the acupuncturist (who is also an M.D.) because acupuncture can be used to generate saliva. A very dry mouth is one of the side effects I'm already experiencing and, although it may be related more to the surgery than the radiation (a salivary gland was removed, after all), the resident said that she often recommends acupuncture to patients to deal with this problem. As a result, another Team Stan member is being put into the game.
This is a continuing series of blog posts by Stan Collender about his experience fighting cancer. "The Process" Stan is describing began last August.