Caring House Great Room
Tomorrow is my last radiation treatment. That will make 25 “regular” treatments in which an area of my body was bombarded with x-rays, and 8 focused treatments with “electron beam”. I will have been at Caring House making daily trips to Duke Cancer Center on weekdays, and ticking off the days. For those of you who may have to be treated with irradiation at some point, the treatment is a piece of cake. Over the course my leg became reddened, swollen, developed inflammation at the base of hairs, and finally developed a few blisters which broke with tenderness and redness. Care consisted of the use of either lotion or a salve that were free of vitamins A, D, or E. Those antioxidant vitamins interfere with the process.
I’m told I can expect continued reaction for up to 2 weeks and then resolution.
There will be long term changes to my skin. As long as “the big ‘C’ “ has bitten the dust that’s all good.
I’ve become institutionalized. My experience at the Caring House has been superb. It hasn’t been without incident, however.
Two days ago I was working on something on the computer in the library when I heard a loud noise, screams, the sounds of scurrying feet, and ran to see what had happened. As I rounded the corner toward the kitchen the fire alarm went off. No one could sleep through that alarm. It is a high-pitched vibrating screech that made everyone want to run out of the building to the parking lot.
Apparently, the fire department is dispatched automatically, and almost immediately I could hear the sounds of distant emergency vehicles drawing closer and louder. We came back through the front door to see if anyone had not been able to get out and were greeted by the smells of an electrical fire.
The fire truck arrived and the first man out was someone that even I, another male, could recognized as magazine cover material. The analysis: there was an electrical fire in the mechanical room next to the kitchen. Something “blew” and the concussion and noise caused a client in the kitchen on a walker to try to run. That didn’t work and she fell. All of the women in the kitchen screamed. Almost simultaneously the fire alarm was tripped. We all looked a lot like sprayed roaches. The women all were overcome by the handsome fireman. The handsome fireman was either oblivious, or used to such reactions.
He determined that the panel that caught fire controlled the heating system in the kitchen area. It, fairly rapidly, became cold in the kitchen, and the heat and air people came and declared that he was right and they would be back. It’s still cold in the kitchen.
I’ve been here long enough that the people at the reception desk in front and the clerks in the sarcoma center know me by name. They’ve gone from mister to first name. That is nice. Still, I would rather that we had all remained strangers.
Beau, the early shuttle driver, starts up now as soon as I get in the van because we figured out that we were on the same page, politically, when the Donald won. I don’t really have to talk. Beau is outraged and likely to stay that way for quite a while. I told him this morning that we have to get everything resolved tomorrow because I’m going home.
I have learned a number of things through this experience. People are people; getting cancer doesn’t make you better or worse as far as personality is concerned. People stay hopeful while realistic about their future. Most people open up eventually about their fears and concerns. No one cares when everyone is in the same boat. Everyone can take a turn.
People in the community are unbelievably generous. Two or three days a week some group shows up with food. They bring quantities suggesting that they think we will all be taken out before a firing squad in the morning. They bring too many sweets. It’s sweet.
The staff here does not become jaded. They are here for you when needed. They are mostly community volunteers but have schedules that they are good to keep. One woman who stays the night runs a temp agency from the front desk. There are “alumni” who regularly drop in to say hello to the staff. My wife would volunteer here and she’s not really the volunteer type.
So, I will be back to see my surgeon and radiation oncologist at three month intervals to see how well the treatment has worked, look for spread elsewhere and make any changes necessary. The odd thing is that I have accepted the fact that I may die from this. We all know that something will take us out. If this is the thing I can deal with it knowing that there are others in the same boat, and a lot of people who truly care about other people.
There won’t be any new blogs from here (everyone can cheer) in all probability until after the first of the year. I plan to enjoy the season and life in general, greet some old friends who have regularly kept up during this chapter, and smile a lot. Life is good.