People Pay Good Money For This!

Finally, the day of completion arrived! May 25, 2010. I had successfully endured 30 treatments of Radiation! Despite all the side effects I had to deal with during the 6 weeks, I was so excited it was my last day that I ordered a huge chocolate sheet cake, and with the help of my parents, delivered it to the staff at the clinic as my small way of saying thanks for all that they had done to get me through a huge nightmare. I met with the doctor one more time and he cautioned me to keep an eye on the skin around my neck to ensure it wasn’t becoming infected from the burn of the Radiation. He said if I started to notice that my skin was wet (much like when a bad sunburn turns into a blister and that blister releases moisture), that I was to call him immediately. We again thanked the nurses, the physician assistants, my doctor and my therapists and traveled the 45 minutes back home, full of amazement and gratitude that it was all over! Once home, in a state of glee, I ripped off the remaining link from the construction paper chain my father had made a few weeks prior, to count down the remaining zaps. We made a huge show of the last drum roll and let out an enormous sigh of relief that as a family, we had collectively survived this painstaking process. While the doctor had warned that the Radiation would continue to “cook me” for a couple more weeks and we knew that meant there was a chance the side effects would increase in severity, we still were ecstatic that there would be no more daily trips to the clinic…no more shots, therefore, no more needles, no more face mask (see photos below) locking me into dreaded position on the cold metal table, no more counting the rotations of the machine to help pass the time…no more, no more! How could we have known what was in store?

Fast forward to 2:00 p.m. that same afternoon when the vomiting began. It was not unusual for me to get sick by that point, but something about this time was different. Two hours later, I was in the restroom again, emptying the remaining contents of my feeding tube protein drink. And yet another two hours passed when I found myself back in a position of surrender to the toilet. By the time 2 a.m. rolled around and there was nothing but scorching bile left to dispose of, my mother called the advice nurse at the hospital. She explained that I had been sick every 2 hours on the dot since earlier that afternoon. Because of my recent Radiation exposure, the nurse told her to bring me in immediately. My father was sick with a pretty severe cold at the time, so he stayed at home as he didn’t want to further my illness, while we journeyed that same 45 minute trek back to the hospital. The scary thing is that my mom has trouble seeing well at night and there was a heavy rain storm the entire way there. We both prayed heavily as I held onto my throw up bowl (just in case) and asked God to deliver us safely to the emergency room doors. He did just that!

We arrived at the ER where they brought me immediately back to one of the rooms. As my mom explained to the nurse what was happening, I reached up to rub my neck which was feeling very sore and tight and felt moisture on my fingertips. When I asked my mom to look, I knew the doctor’s warnings had become reality. Within an hour, my entire neck exploded into a sea of bright red! The exposure of Radiation had tortured my skin so badly, I was facing the trauma of a 2nd to 3rd degree burn. The nurse wrote that down as “another issue” to deal with and told me the doctor would be in shortly.

Soon, the nurse returned and started an I.V. with medication to help the nausea and fluids as I had lost so much during the previous day. The doctor came in to see me after a while and just as he walked in, I threw up once more. He told the nurse to increase the anti-nausea medication and told me he would be back in an hour. When the hour passed, he returned to my room and asked if I was ready to go home. I was, of course, hesitant to leave that soon as I had a pattern of getting sick every 2 hours and only 1 had passed. He agreed to wait it out and came back right as I was again emptying a whole lot of nothing into another bucket. I later learned that he asked my mother, “Is she doing this just because I’m in here?” Had he asked me that directly, I can imagine my sarcastic response may have gone a little like this…”Wow! Really? Yes sir! I figured it would be pretty entertaining to wake my entire family up in the middle of the night, ask my mother to drive blind on a curvy road in the complete darkness just to add a little fake excitement to your night, doc…Nevermind my neck is now on fire and oozing all kinds of super goodness! Yep, that looks pretty normal to me too! And I just LOVE the hot bile that’s careening through my already raw throat. Yep, doing it just because you’re here, doc!” My mom handled it for me (probably a VERY good thing at that point), assuring him that I indeed was not doing it just for show. When almost 8 hours had passed, he realized I wasn’t getting any better and called in a consult to the Oncology department who agreed to admit me to the hospital.

By 4 in the afternoon, I was settled into a comfortable bed and meeting the nurse who would care for me that evening. As has been the case during this entire process, there wasn’t a nurse on staff that knew how to care for my neck wound as it was something they had never dealt with before. Neither was the Oncology department or Pharmacy familiar with my condition. It took a call to my own Radiation Oncologist the next day to get the step by step procedure on how to fix this thing. That first night; however, the nurse made do, and followed the directions of the pharmacy to administer a strong vinegar/sulfur smelling liquid to the wound area. The pharmacist had explained that the nurse needed to put the mixture in a squirt bottle and pour it on me. That brought a whole new issue of how to keep my entire body from getting soaked with the smelly mess as she poured it over my neck. I was wrapped in towels from head to toe and between the nurse, myself and my mom. we were able to get it done! Afterwards, I had to change my hospital gown as it was thoroughly soaked and the vinegar smell remained with me throughout the night, but we managed. You can imagine my relief when the next day, the nurse brought in a bucket of the mixture and explained that all we had to do was soak a few gauze in the liquid and place it directly on my skin for 20 minutes. What a change of plans!

Ironically, once admitted I never threw up again. Looking back now, we believe that the only reason I was so sick that first night was because I needed to have the wound on my neck checked out. While in the hospital, they gave me the strongest level of antibiotics a person can receive along with a blessed dose of pain relief! Legally, the hospital could only keep me due to the vomiting which had been like clockwork for over 24 hours; however, I was 100% without any sickness once I was admitted! You often hear that God works in mysterious ways, and work it out He definitely did that night! We later learned that had we come in just for my neck, they would have sent me home and that type of injury left untreated could have led to an extensive stay in the ICU or even death.

I spent 4 days receiving wonderful care. After I was released, it took another 2 weeks for the wound to completely heal. My mom, bless her nurturing heart, worked twice a day to complete the very extensive routine it took to keep it clean, despite the fact it hurt like crazy and she didn’t want anything to do with the pain it was causing me! But now, my skin is as smooth as a baby’s bum. Time after time, I run into people who say, “You know, you basically got a free chemical peel. There are people out there who pay good money for that!” I just smile and run my hand over my new-found skin…thinking if they only knew what it had truly cost me!

We’re able to laugh about it now and thank God for the way he worked everything out for the good. In all honesty, I suppose I wouldn’t change much about that time in my life. While I was awfully sick and hurting beyond measure, I can truly look back and see how much money I saved my bank account in the future by avoiding that skin peel! It has also minimized the look of the scar on my neck from where the surgeons removed the lymph nodes which is a huge blessing to me! But much more than that, I am reminded (yet again) how great my God is…to realize that there is a God who would go before me and take care of a potentially very dangerous situation, I am in awe of that! It is true, this has been a horrible experience, one that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone, but the blessings…the rewards I have received from this time of having to rely upon the Lord is something I will forever cherish and cling to as I continue this journey called life. And everywhere I go…people compliment me on my new “glow”…a costly glow…but apparently, quite worth it!