My typical cancer treatment day

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, look to tomorrow, rest this afternoon.”
― Charles M. SchulzCharlie Brown’s Little Book of Wisdom

I’ve had a lot of people ask a lot of different questions, and one of the most asked questions was “what happened on a typical treatment day?”

Once I got into the routine of radiation treatments my days didn’t vary much. Mostly I slept. If I was awake then I’d do a puzzle, or watch some TV, mostly the Sochi winter olympics, game shows, or listen to the nature music channel. Wow riveting stuff.

Truth was that I couldn’t focus on anything really, I was zonked all of the time. Maybe it was the treatments, maybe it was the cancer, maybe it was the painkillers; it was likely all three, so I was quite content to keep my activities to a minimum. I wasn’t strong enough to do anything anyways.

My daily grind was simple, and the routine rarely changed day after day. It would vary if I had chemo that day or appointments scheduled for the Oncology clinics but for the most part it looked like this:

Alarm goes off at 5:30 a.m.
Take painkillers and drink a cup of tea.
Leave house at 6:00.
Sleep all the way for 1 1/2 hrs while Seaghan drives to Toronto during rush hour.
Register at radiation reception.
Sleep in the waiting area while Seaghan grabs a bagel & cream cheese (I eye it longingly).
Get called to the waiting area for radiation unit #7.
Change into hospital attire, then wait for my turn.
Receive my treatment, then change back into my street clothes.
If its’s a Wednesday, have my weekly checkup with the Oncologist.
Seaghan drives 1 1/2 hours back home while I sleep.
Half way home we call the nurse to give an ETA on when we will arrive home.
At home, settle down into my couch-turned-day bed.
Take more painkillers.
Have a feeding through the tube and drink a cup of tea.
Nurse hooks me up to hydration IV & checks vitals.
Have another tube feeding while Seaghan has lunch (I eye it longingly).
Have another tube feeding.
Time for a nap.
Have another tube feeding, more painkillers.
Call the nurse, the IV is finished; Seaghan disconnects IV from the PICC line.
Nurse arrives & flushes the PICC, then changes the dressing if it’s hasn’t been done for a week.
Have another tube feeding while Seaghan has dinner and a glass of wine (I eye the wine, and the dinner but mostly the wine, longingly).
Try to force myself to have another tube feeding but usually I can’t stand stomach it by now, take painkillers instead.
9:30 p.m. go to bed.

If it’s a weekend, then the daily drive doesn’t happen but the rest of the schedule stays the same. The bright spot in the weekend was when one of my family (or sometimes a whole gaggle of family) would come keep me company, as long as they hadn’t been in contact with anyone sick, so that Seaghan could get a break and go grocery shopping and do what he needed to do away from the house. I couldn’t be left alone so having them there really was necessary.

Seaghan stayed in the living room with me the whole time I was on the sofa — he fashioned himself a makeshift temporary office so that he could work and keep an eye on me at the same time.

Those days are long gone now, and sometimes I wish for the uncomplicated, unhurried days that I experienced after my treatments were finished and I was recovering.

But most of all, oh how I miss those afternoon naps!


Next time: Starting to Feel the Side Effects

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