Yesterday I finished my 10 radiation treatments.
The doctors, nurses, and technicians all celebrated with me. I suggested that they set off fireworks, remarking that it would be easy to do digitally for all patients undergoing their final treatment. When you have constant contact with the medical team responsible for your therapy, it is hard to just walk away with a thank you and hand-shake. I took some of my photography notecards and told each person with whom I’d had contact to select one they liked. It was received enthusiastically, even with the male doctors! Hugs, smiles, and good wishes were shared in parting.
Then came the tough part — the catheter removal. Dr. Patel, the nurse Eileen, and the representative from the company which provides the catheter were present. The company rep had also come to Dr. Dupree’s office when she put the catheter in. Nan had accompanied me, and she was permitted to be present during the procedure; she drove because I was told to take pain meds to help me tolerate the catheter removal . . . little did I know! When Dr. Patel began the procedure, it quickly became obvious that this was not going to be an easy removal. The reason was because the catheter had been in for TWO weeks instead of the normal one week. Both internal and external healing had occurred around the catheter, and it just did not want to budge. Needless to say, the pain was excruciating. The nurse and Nan were both holding me tightly in support, and Dr. Patel was trying his best to remove it without causing me additional pain. Ultimately he had to numb me with lidocaine — frankly, it didn’t seem to make any difference (although I’m sure it did). Eventually, with more manipulation, Dr. Patel was finally able to pop it out. The company rep said that it was the most difficult extraction he had ever observed.
Butterfly sutures were put into place, and the site was bandaged (very well, I might add!). I cannot express the tremendous feeling of relief I had as we walked out of the hospital.
Technically my treatments are completed. I think it is a bit ironic and perhaps a little symbolic that I learned of my breast cancer diagnosis on September 11th and ended the process of surgeries and treatments on Election Day, November 6th. I have follow-up appointments with Dr. DuPree on Nov. 27th and with Dr. Patel on January 28th. I know that I will continue to process this experience, and I promise to continue to share. I have been told by friends and readers of this blog that they are recommending it to friends and acquaintances who are grappling with their own cancer diagnoses. If anything I’ve written, felt, or shared helps someone else as he/she navigates their own way through cancer, I am grateful.
Now it is time to move forward, albeit as a different person.
. . . and so it is