Radiation therapy

All the mixed emotions that I’d been experiencing had left me totally drained and numb. I also had absolutely no idea how to tell my girls that my cancer had returned. They say that if you relapse again that it’s easier from the perspective that you at least know what to expect…well sort of.  I was being forced, kicking and screaming against my will to embark on this dark and perilous road again that is pock marked with pot holes that are actually much deeper and darker than they look on the surface. You know without a shadow of a doubt that if you fall into one of them, you’re going to have a great deal of trouble getting out again. I knew without anybody having to tell me that I was now up against a completely different ball game and that the stakes had never been higher. I could still not get my mind around the fact that this was actually happening to me. That this was my life. What on earth was it coming to?  I felt like God and the rest of the universe had turned against me the last time; this time I was picturing nasty, demonic looking effigies racing towards me with their pitchforks raised in the air ready to sink them into me. I could not believe that my life had come to this. I actually felt like asking someone to pinch me so that I could wake up from this inconceivable nightmare.

After getting home from the hospital that day, we never said anything to the girls. We first had so sleep on it all and process what had just gone down. The next day happened to be a weekend and we called a family meeting. As most of us know there is no easy way to break news like this to family members and you’re so tempted to use euphemism’s, but the only way is just to put it out there. Three totally dismayed little faces looked back at me. They looked like deer caught in headlights. Without a sound my second eldest, Arlise’s eyes filled with tears as they just started to stream down her cheeks. She stood up and came over to me, sat on my lap and buried her head in my shoulder as she started sobbing. All color had drained from the remaining two faces that looked at me, frozen to the spot. One could see that one and the same question was on the tip of their tongues, ‘What now?’

There was of course also the task of letting other family members know about it. Jaco phoned his parents to inform them, and after a very tearful conversation with my sister Karen, she yet again was going to book a flight out to come and see us over the New Year. That was at least one beacon of light, and something that I had to look forward to. Seeing my sister again!

I was told by my doctor that the first plan of action was to go for radiation. The best place to go at the time was a cancer center that was 250km away which was chosen for it’s state of the art equipment. There I would be placed under the care of a radiation oncologist who would take care of me through all the treatments. The only issue was all the driving. It would mean driving 500km every second day just to lie on a table for 10 minutes. Jaco was fairly new at a company that he’d just joined and for him to take every second day off so early on in the race for a month seemed like a tall order at the time. That was when an angel was sent to us in the form of a small and wealthy Chinese man, who offered up his chauffeur to drive me to and fro to my appointments. Jaco and I were both so grateful and relieved and so for the next three weeks, I was driven back and forth to the cancer center in the back of a limousine.

In the midst of all of this and much to my relief actually, my oncologist left the hospital that I was at. Although that in itself turned out in the end to be a blessing in disguise since I no longer trusted him, he was being replaced by a doctor I didn’t know. This meant that I had little choice but to learn to trust and put my life in the hands of a new doctor I knew nothing about.

About a week into the radiation, I started to find eating very difficult. Every tiny mouthful that I swallowed made my esophagus and stomach feel as though they were on fire. I had to resort to eating very soft foods in very small amounts at a time throughout the day and as the treatments progressed, it became worse. The only good thing that came out of it was the fact that I lost some weight. This was a very small consolation, given what was to come.

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