Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Phantom Tastes and Surreal Moments in Radiation

My apologies for the delay in updating. Last week was extremely hectic due to A: preparing for two mysteries performed over the weekend, and B: the mid-way point in Chemo and Radiation have begun to really kick in. My blood work from today indicates a drop in protein so I'm focusing on that. I'm including a scan of this week's lab work compared to last week's, and while most of the numbers are holding good, there is room for a little improvement.

Regarding chemotherapy, my doctors assure me these next two weeks will be the hardest, to which I say, "bring it on!"  No matter how bad it feels for me, I know it's worse for the cancer, and the one thing I dearly love is the idea of hurting it back.  Does this make me a masochist or a sadist?

Keeping a healthy diet is getting difficult.  I have no appetite.  I have no sense of taste or smell due to chemo, or when I do, it's distorted.   Throughout my life I've enjoyed a very keen sense of taste and smell.  These senses have often been more valuable to me than sight and hearing for picking up subliminal cues and details.  Now everything tastes and smells weird, or not at all.  Everything is blandly neutral or repulsive, or worst, a mixture of metallic flavors mixed with chemical smells.  So I am now treating food and drink as medicine, setting aside specific amounts to be consumed on a time-table like prescriptions. I can taste extreme spices like cayenne peppers, but I avoid these due to a possible reoccurrence of the acid reflux potential which caused the cancer in the first place.  I'm normally a very taste / scent oriented person but this is like I'm hallucinating with my mouth and nose.  Phantom odors and chemical tastes are a surreal experience I can't quite describe adequately. 

Swallowing in general has become painful and difficult.  The radiation is burning away at the cancer inside my esophagus, which is most excellent, but it is also doing collateral damage to the surrounding tissue.  This has made my voice raspy and induces great pain whenever I take a deep breath or attempt to swallow.  Even swallowing a sip of liquid  is becoming a painful act of will.  I find myself increasingly reliant on pain medication.  My brain hates this reliance.  When using the pain meds I feel mentally dulled, slowed down, distracted.   So I find myself avoiding the pain meds until absolutely necessary.  It's a trade-off I'm willing to make.  For now.

Today's radiation therapy provided a very surreal moment all on its own.  The attending staff generally play music over the speakers as the giant mechanical donut machine zaps away at the cancer.  This can be relaxing and helpful while laying motionless as the machine rotates around you.
Today it took such a surreal turn that I almost fell laughing off the table.

To give you a better visual idea of the machine and process, see attached image below.  

The process is simple: I am placed shirtless on a narrow table with bars, and my head is fitted against a molded-depression as my arms are raised above my head to grip a steel bar above me.

The lights go down, laser guide-lines are projected against the crosses and ex.'s on my torso, and the Giant Mechanical Donut dances around me zapping radiation into my chest.

Well, if that isn't surreal enough, today's musical choice was a Johnny Cash Medley, including "Burning Ring of Fire."

I was deeply amused.

Please note these are stock images  used in this image, but this is the EXACT model series of the machine used in my treatments and are identical to what I experience every weekday.  They don't allow cameras in the actual radiation room so I pulled these images from the machine manufacturer's web page and other image sources.   The last two reflects more reflect my twisted imagination as to what they may actually be doing in the control booth and the unbridled affects of any unforseen radiation mutations.  :)

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