This morning I finished the last of my radiation treatments. As I described earlier, each of the ten sessions had me laying front-down on a metal slab with my hand clamped down in a three-phase apparatus. I had a technician take some pictures for me one day, which you can see above.
My sister, the curious dentist, asked me to keep the rig for her to check out. Moderately surprisingly, they let me keep the wax overlay and the fiberglass mesh. The blue base, however, accumulates radiation and has to be disposed of in some special environmental protection manner. Do they not know I was putting my hand on there?
Over the course of radiation, I got the constantly-sunburned feeling they said I would get, eased with specific safe lotion. Each treatment also felt a bit like a punch in the gut, and each layered upon the last in terms of a period of fatigue and fuzziness of mind. While not fun, each was tolerable knowing the goal of reducing the number of cancer cells in my hand before a surgery.
So you might imagine my concern and denial when the same white dot that started my whole journey back in summer appeared on my knuckle on the weekend. I brought this to the attention of my doctors yesterday, and a visual and tactile inspection is enough to convince them what I feared… despite all the chemotherapy and radiation, my tumor is actually re-growing rather than shrinking.
And so, this last day of treatment is somewhat anticlimactic. There was a schedule in play for my surgery, and that was already based on a timeframe to allow my body’s immunity to recover from radiation. If surgery needs to be stepped up sooner to avoid full re-growth, I’ll be less able to accept the necessary grafts and to recover afterward.
There are no good answers. For now, I just wait.
With my semi-voluntary exposure to gamma rays and the mutant thing that keeps growing inside me, there has been no shortage of Hulk teasing going on. Most people are most familiar with the TV show-era tag line, “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”
As I’m opening up here, I will admit that most of my life I’ve felt a little like Bruce Banner keeping many things suppressed, with the events of my past few years making it even more acute.
But the movie line that rings most true to me comes from The Avengers. Captain America politely suggests, “Dr. Banner, now might be a really good time to get angry.”
“That’s my secret, Captain,” comes the reply. “I’m always angry.”