The technician clips my mask onto the table I'm laying on. The mask is tight. There isn't room to wiggle around or squirm. I fall into a calm mental state and relax my arms to my sides. The EBRT (external beam radiation therapy) machine above my face whirs and slowly rotates to my left side. The machine is shooting radiation into the side of my neck. From my peripheral I see the glow of a red light. I feel the sting of a light heat against my neck and in a minute it's over. One more session down.
I have the weirdest freaking life.
On December 22, 2016 I had surgery to remove the benign tumor on my neck. On my two week follow up appointment my ENT doctor who operated on my tumor told me that there would be a chance that the tumor would reappear later on. He informed me that radiation therapy is not out of the question for non cancerous tumors. At the time it seemed like a very unlikely scenario.
On the second week of March 2017 I received a voicemail from Glendale Adventist, it was from an Oncologists office, a doctor that deals with cancer patients. I came in to the appointment with the doctor with an open mind. The doctor informed me that when the pathology report on the tumor came back, it showed that the tumor had a high likelihood of recurrence. My Oncologist was recommending radiation therapy as a preventative measure.
I had a CT scan on my neck a few days later. It showed a 17mm "thing" had grown back on my neck. There was no way to be sure if it was a recurrence of the tumor without a biopsy or surgery. For me, it was a confirmation that the decision to radiate was the right choice.
My doctor told me that the treatment would take six weeks. Five days a week of treatment. I may experience lethargy, hunger, tiredness and nausea.
This thing wasn't over yet.
Suffering Is A Choice
My wife and my mother were the first people I talked to about the situation. They are the women in my life who care the most about me. They were the most concerned, had the most questions and made sure that I was comfortable with the decision.
I saw it as a situation that didn't involve the luxury of decision. Of course I was going to get treatment. Of course I was going to make sure this problem would not become a constant in my life. I am willing to go through this for six weeks so that I have peace of mind moving forward for the rest of my days.
This is not a situation I want to be in, but I refuse to see it as a plight.
I love my Oncologist. She's knowledgeable, communicates well and I can tell she has my best interest at heart. The staff at the Cancer Research Center are funny, professional and kind. The treatments are short, five to ten minutes at a time. I am turning the situation into one where I can exercise a mental/spiritual exercise.
No complaints. I have no right to say that I am suffering. Other people have it hard. War veterans and POW's have it harder than I have. I get to sleep in my own bed every night. I get to come home to my wife and my child. I don't get to complain.
How do I get myself to enjoy this situation?
I ride my bike to the radiation treatments. Afterwards, I ride my bike to the local coffee shop and read a book. Then, if I have time I go to the park and exercise. I turn each treatment into an enjoyable experience. I try to become stronger so that I can withstand the tired feelings and lethargy that the treatments may bring to me.
I miss strength training. I stopped actively doing my bodyweight fitness routine when I was training for the marathon. I forgot how good I feel afterwards when I work my skeletal muscles. I forgot how much my central nervous system comes alive after a set of pull-ups and dips. I want to get strong again.
Sometimes you get to choose the events you conquer such as the triathlon or the marathon.
Sometimes those events get chosen for you.
My weight loss has stalled. The stress of training for the marathon made my calorie consumption go up. The added stress of the podcast and these treatments hasn't helped. I had a very indulgent Vegas trip this past weekend too.
I'm basically starting over with my weight loss for the year. It's fine, I will get back to it soon enough.
Two Weeks In
As I write this I am ending the second week of my treatments. I am always hungry. Always. It's good perhaps that I am feeding my body to keep myself energized. I can get very tired at night and go to sleep quickly. My work hasn't been negatively affected and I feel normal most of the time. I think that these treatments may have a cumulative effect where I may gradually become very fatigued. I will fight that. I will get through this.
I'm not writing this for a pity party. I don't really want sympathy or even much attention. This is just a reminder to me that life is a beautiful ride full of hills, descents, crashes and recoveries. More to come soon.