Saturday, January 21, 2006

An Unwanted Journey: Day 0058 - Two sitz, a haircut and a funeral

Two weeks of radiation therapy are “under my belt”, so to speak.

I ran into the radiation oncologist in the halls of Grand River Hospital yesterday and he stopped to see how I was doing. Ironically, despite everything else going very well, yesterday was the first day that I had a side effect worth mentioning to him. It’s not something you mention in casual conversation, but then again, neither is rectal cancer!

“Well, I have a sore anus. But I’m not sure if that’s related to the treatment or just a coincidence.”

“Oh yeah, that’s definitely a side effect of the radiation treatment. Try a sitz bath, for sure, and consider purchasing one of those special pillows you can find in a lot of drug stores to take pressure off of the anal tissues. And make sure you mention this again when you see me on Tuesday for our consultation to talk about medicinal remedies we could try. Have a good weekend.”

Last night and again today, I tried having sitz baths. I realize that Europeans are used to the bidet. But for typical North American guys, I’m betting having a sitz bath for the first time is, at the very least, an odd sensation. The warm water is soothing and effective treatment for what I’m experiencing, but like most guys, just sitting there in warm water for 15 to 20 minutes seems like a lifetime.

While doing errands Saturday morning, we stopped by our local Shoppers Home Health Care store and shopped for a coccyx cushion. Now this device is something I could easily get accustomed to quite readily. In fact, I made very good use of it today while snoozing during the NCAA basketball games on TV in the afternoon. The coccyx is the technical term for what most people call the tailbone. A coccyx cushion, as is obvious from the name, is specially designed to relieve pressure on the tailbone while sitting. But for rectal cancer patients the coccyx cushion also serves to relieve pressure on the anus itself.

Radiation treatment for rectal cancer is meant to target tumours in the rectum, but there is only so much technology can do to limit damage done to healthy tissues in the general vicinity of the radiation field.

But despite this first definitive side effect, I’m feeling great. Last night, I actually sat through an entire movie (Brokeback Mountain) without once having to leave for a bathroom break. That was a major accomplishment for me and something I haven’t seriously considered for a few months. Today, I was able to attend a funeral for the father of our choir director, followed by a haircut and other errands, again all done without the need for a bathroom break. Almost like a normal person!

Only l8 more radiation treatments to go!

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