CANCER: My Third Anniversary – Part 4 of 4

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Read Time9 Minute, 43 Second

Originally published August 27, 2012

Please read Parts 1, 2, and 3 before reading this 

Monday, August 18, 2009

Oncology Floor 51N – Surrey Memorial Hospital

I was awake most of the night (worrying) and had just started to fall back asleep when the nurse came into my room.  I looked at my watch – it was 5:30 AM.

She told me that she was just finishing her shift and wanted to wish me luck on my first day of treatment.

“What a nice gesture!” I thought.

I thanked her and said “No problem, it’ll be a piece of cake!”.

Of course, I was lying through my teeth!

A voice inside me shouted, “Bravissimo Danny, bravissimo!”

But as the nurse left my room, I suddenly thought,  “What the heck does bravissimo mean?

It was yet another example of my voice-from-inside using esoteric words that I did not understand.

Fortunately, I was able to borrow a dictionary from the elderly lady in the next bed.

She said she uses it to cheat when playing Scrabble with her grandchildren.

“Bravissimo,” I muttered, as I quickly flipped through the pages.  I found it but it had two definitions:

  1. Bravissimo – [brah-vis-uh-moh; brah-vees-see-maw] (i.) (used to express the highest praise to a performer)
  1. Bravissimo – Lingerie, swimwear, clothing, and nightwear for D-L cup women

My face was turning a bright shade of red as I returned the dictionary to my roommate.

Thanks, Ma’am, I muttered.

Couldn’t you find the word that you were looking for Sonny?, she asked.

She had a look of sympathy on her face – obviously her concerned for me.

No Ma’am, I found it.  I was looking for the definition of bravissimo, I answered.

Oh, I could have saved you the trouble of looking, she exclaimed, it’s a clothing store for D-L cup women!

Danny, what does all of this have to do with your treatments?  Is this going to be another long, drawn-out story?  

Sorry, Spanky, but sometimes a little humor makes a big difference, especially when discussing a serious subject.

Shortly after breakfast, an orderly wheeled me to the Cancer Centre, which is adjacent to the hospital, for my first radiation treatment.

Two very friendly therapists greeted me and gave me a tour of the treatment room.

They explained the procedure and assured me that it would be similar to having an X-ray.

I removed my pajama top and then I laid on the treatment table.

The head mask was placed over me and fastened to the table, to prevent any movement during the treatment.

The treatment consisted of receiving a series of radiation at seven different spots around my neck and throat area.

The radiation did two short zaps of treatment and then rotate around my neck to the next designated spot, for a total of fourteen zaps of radiation.

The machine is noisy but the actual treatment was painless and took less than 30 minutes.

Danny going for his first radiation treatment

I returned to my room on 51N and felt relieved.

I described my treatment to my roommate and how I had done all of that worrying for nothing.

It was nice sharing a room with another cancer patient – we spent a lot of time talking about our illness and how it had affected our lives.

But she said something that really shocked me; some of her friends and family would not come near her after they learned that she had cancer – they were afraid that cancer was contagious!

Tears started streaming down her face – I got up and went to her bed to give her a hug.

“How could people be that heartless and/or stupid?” I thought.

A nurse came in to start me on an IV feed.

She indicated that I should take the first of my anti-nausea pills and that they would be starting my chemo treatment within the hour.

Later, she returned and hooked up the chemo drug.

There would be 2 bags of the drug injected over a 4 hour period.

It was painless – no nausea or discomfort.  I was relieved.

A few hours later I ate my dinner.

Yes, hospital food isn’t the greatest but I was celebrating – I had had my first radiation and chemo treatments and felt pretty darn proud of myself.

And everyone at the hospital and the Cancer Centre was so nice and helpful.

On Tuesday morning, after breakfast, I went down to the Cancer Centre for my radiation treatment.

I returned to my room and checked out of the hospital shortly after lunch.

I drove home listening to one of my favorite cd’s – Hell Freezes Over by The Eagles.

Over the next eight weeks, I got very sick.

I was too sick to receive my last chemo treatment, but I did complete all 37 radiation treatments.

I have decided not to write about the details of those 7 weeks.

Suffice to say that it was a very difficult period for me.

The purpose of writing about my experiences with cancer wasn’t to get sympathy, my dear reader.

And it certainly wasn’t intended to shock or scare you.

I mentioned earlier that I had never cried or shed a tear since learning that I had cancer.

That was a true statement – until June 2011 – when I had just had my 3-month check-up with Dr. Karvat, my radiation oncologist.

During the check-up, he put a camera down through my nostril and into my throat to examine the affected area.

I get very nervous about two weeks before each of these 3-month checkups – worrying about the results.

I also have a contrast CT Scan done every 6 months – which also makes me nervous.

But it was after my examination in June 2011, when Dr. Karvat indicated that everything looked good, that I decided to go downstairs to the radiation department, where I had received my treatments.

I asked the receptionist if I could see Dr. Hubert, who had been helping with my treatments.

The receptionist asked why I wanted to see the doctor.

I told her that I was a patient and just wanted to give Dr. Hubert a hug.

A few minutes later, the doctor came into the reception area and looked at me.

She took a second look but it didn’t appear that she recognized me.

I told her that she probably didn’t recognize me because I had lost almost 100 lbs since my treatments ended in October 2009 (still unable to eat solid food).

I told her that I just wanted to give her a hug.

And as I hugged her, I whispered this into her ear:

I was so sick – but you were my Angel… I just wanted to…

and then I broke down crying.

It all came out – nearly two years after the fact – but the tears flowed.  I couldn’t stop the tears.

But the smile I got in return, felt so warm and loving.

is what helped get me through several months of excruciating pain.  I was shown nothing but love during my treatments.

I signed up as a volunteer at the Cancer Centre that day.  I requested a job in the Chemo Room as patient support.  I was interviewed in July and then later, after a background and references check , was informed that I would start in September, after completing the necessary orientation courses.  I work every Wednesday and Thursday mornings from 8:00 AM – 12:00 PM.   My duties include ensuring that the patients are comfortable; offering them hot blankets, pillows and liquid refreshments.  I also sit with many of them and talk about whatever.   And I always offer a hug – lots of hugs.  I also help set up the Chemo Teach class for new patients.

I consider myself fortunate.  I am not yet a cancer survivor – you’re not officially cancer free until 6 years after your last treatment.   And I’m just a little superstitious, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

I hope that I have increased your awareness of Cancer.   That’s really what this is all about.  And remember the following:

  • Cancer is not contagious!
  • Always Be Positive (part of the 40% group)
  • Pull Up Your Britches!

Oh, and one more thing – about my Mom.  As I indicated earlier, I never told my Mom about my illness.  I continued to phone her on a weekly basis, but she noticed that my voice had changed and kept asking me if I had a cold.  And each time that we spoke, she asked if I was planning a trip to Ontario to visit her.  I would come up with various excuses but promised that I would be coming for a visit as soon as possible.  In September 2010, nearly a year after my last treatment, my Mom was rushed to the hospital.  I decided that I would go down to visit her right away.  I called her on that Friday night and told her that I would be coming down to visit her.  Her voice sounded very weak but she managed to say “That will be so nice!”.   I then told her that I loved her very much and said goodbye.  Later that night my sister called – Mom had just passed away!  In the end, my dear, sweet Mom wouldn’t tell me how sick she was – she wouldn’t have wanted to worry me!  And as painful as cancer has been – it was nothing compared to the heartbreak of seeing my Mom in the funeral home.

Ma and me (circa 1951)

Dedicated to my dear Ma.

I hope my stories are a gift to your head and heart.

Hugs,

Danny

Click on this Index to view my 210+ stories.

 

Today’s tune from Danny’s library (purchased):

Til I Am Myself Again – lyrics

I want to know where
My confidence went
One day it all disappeared
And I’m lying in a hotel room
Miles away
Voices next door in my ear

Well, daytime’s a drag
Nighttime’s worse
Hope that I can get home soon
But the half-finished bottles of inspiration
Lie like ghosts in my room

Well, I wanna go
I know I can’t stay
But I don’t want to run
Feeling this way
Til I am myself
Til I am myself
Til I am myself again

There’s a seat on the corner
I keep every night
Wait til the evening begins
I feel like a stranger
From another world
But at least I’m living again

There are nights
Full of anger
Words that are thrown
Tempers that are shattered and thin
But the moments of magic
Are just too short
They’re over before they begin

Well, I know it’s time
One big step
I can’t go
I’m not ready yet
Til I am myself
Til I am myself
Til I am myself again

I had a dream
That my house was on fire
People laughed while it burned
Well, I tried to run but my legs were numb
I had to wait til the feeling returned

Well, I don’t need a doctor
To figure it out
I know what’s passing me by
When I look in the mirror
Sometimes I see
Traces of some other guy

Well, I wanna go
I know I can’t stay
I don’t want to run
Feeling this way
Til I am myself
Til I am myself
Til I am myself again

Songwriters: Cuddy James G / Keelor J Gregory
Til I Am Myself Again lyrics © Universal-mca Music Publis Obo Universal – Mca Music Publ.,

About Post Author

Daniel (Danny) St. Andrews

An almost famous Film, Television & Stage Actor (as in almost pregnant) living in Vancouver, BC His other passions include cancer patient advocate (he had stage 3 throat cancer), walking with the Vancouver 'Venturers Walking Club, and of course, spoiling his dog, Holly Golightly. If you like the stuff he writes about - please leave a hug (or a comment).
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By Daniel (Danny) St. Andrews

An almost famous Film, Television & Stage Actor (as in almost pregnant) living in Vancouver, BC His other passions include cancer patient advocate (he had stage 3 throat cancer), walking with the Vancouver 'Venturers Walking Club, and of course, spoiling his dog, Holly Golightly. If you like the stuff he writes about - please leave a hug (or a comment).

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