Day 0: the day of my last cancer treatment! Thirty-three radiation treatments, two chemo sessions, countless doctor/oncology appointments, in-home nurses coming and going, PICC line flushes, feeding tube mishaps, a multitude of transfusions and it comes down to this, my very last radiation session.
The last treatment consultation
Before the treatment I meet with my Oncologist. It’s the last meeting we’d have for a month which felt, oddly enough, a little scary. When you suddenly realize that you’re not going to the hospital every day and you won’t be surrounded by technicians and nurses and interacting with them on a daily basis, you start to feel as though suddenly you have no safety net in case you stumble.
In reality I wasn’t going to be alone, because there’s a whole bunch of support networks in place: religious support, nurses’ hotlines, emergency oncology hotline, weekly/monthly oncology follow-ups, family physicians, pharmacists, social workers, friends, and of course my family and my husband.
But I digress: back to the last meeting with the doctor. We talked about my progress so far, and how pleased he was that I didn’t miss a single radiation session (why would I? I wanted all the “curing” I could get). We discussed the fact that, even though my treatments were over, the side effects would actually continue to get worse because the radiation keeps working long after the last dose. He explained what further symptoms to expect, when I might get my feeding tube removed, etc. At the end of our consultation as he started leaving the room, I jokingly asked him what am I going to do with all my spare time now that I’m not at Sunnybrook any more?
He lets out a hearty laugh then shouts “REST!”
The last “hurrah”
So on I go to my last radiation treatment. It goes according to plan, and I’m expecting a little fanfare at the end of it. After all, when I was first scheduled to be treated at the Barrie hospital, they explained that on the last day of my treatment they would bring out a large gong for me to bang, heralding the day of freedom and hope and signalling the end of the treatments. I saw it, they do have it, and I wanted it. If I hadn’t been shown it at the Barrie hospital in the first place I wouldn’t have expected anything, but now I was really looking forward to some type of “ta da” at Sunnybrook.
What did they have? Nothing! No gong, no hugs, no announcement, no “graduation” certificate, nothing. Just a quiet little “good luck” by the radiation tech. No fanfare. It was very anticlimactic. Now, I can understand that they have a lot of patients being pushed through the process every day but dang it I felt DENIED.
So here it is. For me, for everyone who fought cancer and won, for everyone who journeyed along with us, this gong’s for US!
(click the play button for audio)
Next time: convalescing, and enjoying life again.