My Radiation Experience

Radiation – last treatment phase.

I can’t believe, I’ve reached the last phase of my treatment, radiation. One knows, that no matter what anyone may say, there is always a fear. So, what do you do when you have a fear? You talk to the doctor, and those friends who have been through it. Amber (you know her, my cancer survivor friend,) told me that it is the easiest part. Now, I’ll second her statement. ‘Yes, it is.’

Yet, no matter what another person says, you are apprehensive.

Introductory meeting for radiation:

Waliya Najib, shared this on her Instagram, when we finally decided to share with our followers.
Dr. Farrukh explaining my case to us, with their plan of treatment. It feels good to know that a board of doctors sits down to discuss best treatment for each patient.

Anyhow, my daughter Waliya and I had our meeting with Dr. Farrukh. He proudly showed us the Oncology Radiation section, some parts had recently been redesigned. First, he showed us the manner in which they have a meeting with a board of doctors while studying each case. How the pic of each patient’s case plan is placed in front of them.

The plan looks something like this…. usually, they do not show it to the patient. This is just between doctors.

They decide what is the best way to treat each case. They have used precision radiation for my case. He also took me through a simulation experience in a razzle dazzle beautiful room where I lay and had a mini-experience while they took my CT scan.

This is the room where one got all the radiations. The plan is fed into the radiation machine. The specifications are displayed on the screen beside the patient, on the wall.

I was shown the room in which I’ll actually be going for my radiation. I asked when that machine was bought, it was in 2007. (I thought that was pretty old!) It seemed, that it wasn’t. It felt good to see the room beforehand.

Some lateral learning:

Anyhow, I found out from an Instagram follower that he had gone to Noori, where the machines are older, and can damage a person’s spine and he had problem in swallowing afterwards. (Yes, I can take this advantage as a blogger to share what I personally found out!)

Though Noori is a very good hospital, with excellent facilities. Also, all side effects of radiation are soon worked out, and treated also, as was in the case of my follower. It is important to find out that the radiation and Xray machines are as new as possible. I’ve heard, Shifa International Hospital has very good machines and the latest types. This is why they have the least side effects.  

My first day of radiation:

Every Wednesday, one had a meeting with the doctor, to share any issues or apprehensions. Alhamdolillah, I was fine. His assistant, checked if there was any redness. I was told to be careful and gentle with the area, as it becomes rather tender.

So, as usual, I went for my radiation with my daughter who waited outside, while I put on the gown and went in. They have done a smart thing, by not closing the door which is visible to the patient, lying down. Then they close the door at the end of the corridor. I was apprehensive about the door closing, and was happy to see it being left open. (I get claustrophobic.) So, this really did get easy-peasy.

In case I panic…

This pic taken from the internet, is how it looks.

Once they settle you in, they leave you alone with their machines. It can get scary if you aren’t careful. I checked with the specialists about a signal if I get panicky, they showed me how to raise my hand only, like this. (They showed me how,) by not moving any other part of the body as it is very dangerous to do so, during a session. Just raise the hand up straight, from the wrist up. They are watching from outside, and will come in.  One can speak too, they can hear the patient. So, I knew how to call for help in case of any problem. That made me feel more in control.

One is all alone in the room, like in an x-ray, but this feels more scary with the machine moving side to side.

I was now ready.

The process of radiation:

This is how you are to stay still…

 The whirring sound of the machine, as it worked, the movement of the machine, and process, all was to become very familiar. They had asked me to tilt my head at an angle to my left, raising my chin a little higher than usual. I stayed conscious of it. You’ve got to follow their instructions very carefully.

Spiritual supplications:

I read Surah Fateha, and the ayat that Mufti Salahuddin had given me for daily reading, by now I had learnt it by heart. It is so true. What a wonder the human body is! I prayed to Allah, that without His consent, nothing can harm me. To please spare my body from any harmful effects, and to let this process be a source of healing for me.

I prayed for my family, my followers, my friends and myself too.

The few minutes would be over, and I’d be out soon.

Once a week a longer session:

Some days, there would be a longer stay due to some X-rays that they also took, it was about once a week. So, if you are mentally prepared, you are okay. The staff informs you about it.

A balm to put afterwards:

Keep an aloe vera plant in your room or home, and I found this the best balm for the area.

Afterwards, when I reached home, I would put the gel of the aloe vera plant on my radiated parts. It was very soothing.  Some days, I put on the olive oil which had had dum by the Mufti. I found these good enough. Though the doctor had suggested some talcum powder and cream.

However, note that when you come for the radiation, your skin must be clean and free of any other substance on it.

Some important notes:

It all went very smoothly, (only once I had got a bit panicky and used the signal to call them in.) Then, we continued to complete the session, after I felt better.

Redness on skin:

On the last day, at home when I looked at myself in the mirror, I found that my under-arm area was a dark red color. In fact all the parts having radiation had turned red. Thank goodness my radiation was over, and now it will get better soon. I’ve continued with the aloe vera gel treatment, it is very soothing. However, now, my skin has also started peeling off, and now I need to put on a cream there, not the aloe vera. It needs constant care and supervision.

I have to continue doing exercises which the physiotherapist had shown me after surgery. These I’m doing thrice daily.

An important note:

Here in Pakistan, we women are given a special treatment and mostly deal with female staff tending to us. However, we need to remember, that at times it is alright for a medical person to be able to see you bared in parts necessary for the situation. The staff, here at the hospital have faced problems due to patients refusing to be seen by a male attendant.

The nurse at the radiation department told me that in theory the patient is to be attended by one male and one female nurse for adjusting them at the correct position for radiation. Mostly, due to our female patients not wanting a male around, they have two females. One of them helps and reads the specifications on the screen, while the other adjusts the body to that particular specification.

It all looks like Greek to us, but I’d check that my own specifications are on the screen. It would reassure me.

One day…

One Saturday, I could see they were understaffed. There was only one nurse to tend to me, I asked her why there isn’t another person. She said, she can manage it. But I felt uneasy. I told her I don’t mind if there is a male attendant as long as my radiation is done properly. (I couldn’t afford to get a wrong part of me getting burnt up inside, for lack of staff, or my shyness.)

After a while, thankfully, the nurse brought in a male nurse. I could see that he was more experienced, and noted different details. After all, for them, we are just another patient! I realized, it is important to stop being prudent at such times, when one’s safety and accurateness in treatment is more important.

In the dressing room, I’m mentally preparing myself to be in a calm state of mind, and be mindful and fully alert during the radiation session.

A flashback and a lesson learnt long ago:

 It reminded me of a time long ago, when I had seen a small boil growing on lower side of my left breast. I was feeding my three-month-old baby in those days. We had traveled back to Kuwait by road from Madina, after performing Umra. When we reached our home in Kuwait, late evening, I called my friend who was a doctor. I asked her, ‘what should I do?’

 ‘Immediately show it to the doctor! This can be very serious,’ she said.

I was reluctant going to a male doctor. I knew most hospitals have only male staff in late evenings, so I decided to go in the morning, to show a female doctor. By the next morning, it had become large, swollen and black and the boil had burst. It ended up by my husband taking me to their largest hospital, showing a male doctor, and getting operated on. It was a gruesome experience, as the incompetent doctor didn’t use a proper anesthesia, and it was a horrifying experience. I realized, had I gone the day earlier, all this wouldn’t have happened. I had learnt my biggest lesson, never to be hesitant, showing to a male doctor. Just make sure a nurse or family member must be present too.

This is why when my present dilemma happened, I was clear. This is important factor to note, for most ladies. Just note that you are not alone, there should be at least one nurse or family member present along with the doctor.

Side effects of radiation:

These are possibilities, they won’t necessarily happen. I’ve only experienced numbness, and redness.

Though my friend and doctor had said there aren’t any major side effects.  Yet, from other patients I could sense differently. I guess it depends on number of radiations too. Mine were just fifteen. There were people telling me there is a lot of weakness. So, I started taking the local panjeeri, a strengthening eatable. I found it helped a lot, along with soups, ensure and Resource Premium.

People’s responses:

The man who was pushing my wheelchair would keep getting surprised at how well I am. He had seen differently, I guess. I believe it is a lot to do with you keeping your morale high. Also, I know many people came from other cities daily for these sessions. So, that itself must be exhausting. Even I found it rather tiring going daily. My doctor assured me it was the daily coming, not the radiation that was tiring me out.

So, try to keep the rest of the day an easy one, so you get plenty of rest otherwise. Take a siesta in afternoon, and plan visits early, so you are through the visit as soon as possible.

I’ve known of a person who got her radiation done on way to her office. Imagine! She would spend an entire day in office afterwards.

So, each experience is different and so is the body and spirit.

Waliya Najib, my youngest daughter shared this on her Instagram.

Stay blessed my sweet readers. You are getting a real high intensity post-after-post influx on cancer related blog posts. The over whelming response here, and on Instagram has assured me that my posts are being very well received, and so many people are benefiting from these. Unfortunately, cancer patients are on the rise.

Few Pakistanis have written on this topic, and so we need to share our experiences.

Here is a book I’d highly recommend, once you are out of it all. A book I’m reading these days, gifted to me by Saira who came from Seattle recently, and met me.

Stay blessed and well, my dear Reader. ?

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  1. Alhamdolilah.
    So very happy that this part of your treatment is over too.
    In sha Allah very soon you will be back to normal just like my ammi and sister.
    Rather I would say more than normal in sha Allah.
    Prayers for your well being.
    I remember after Dr told ammi that she is cancer free she told us how to self check on the monthly basis.
    Soo please do tell your daughters to do it themselves self check on the monthly basis on washing Their periods.

    1. Shireen Gheba Najib says:

      Thank you so much, for your comment and tips. It feels good to know that you personally know two success cases.
      Yes, Insha Allah, it will all be over soon. Lots of love and stay blessed.

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