Part Five: Treatment Day | PRRT & Me

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My invitation letter requested that I check into the nuclear medicine ward on the fourth floor on Thursday at 9:30 am. I got there a little earlier so that I could find the finance office to pay my deposit on my treatment. The finance office is in the basement of the hospital and they ran my credit card, which I prayed wouldn’t get declined. It didn’t, which was probably the most stressful part of the entire treatment for me.

Checking into the ward

After bringing me back up to the ward, they assigned me to my room. Turns out they put me in a room with a roommate. There is only one room on the ward like that. I was partnered with a very lovely Japanese woman who spoke English very well. What was lost in translation we had Google translate to help! It was awesome. We were both in our 40s, each diagnosed when we were 37 with pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors, and a shared love of cheese, chocolate, wine and sake. Needless to say, we became fast friends. It actually made the whole isolation experience so much more enjoyable. I was grateful to have her there.

They brought in menus for me to select what I would be wanting to eat while I was in the hospital and told me that since it was already so late that they wouldn’t be able to select our upcoming lunch. I asked if it was possible to get a vegetarian meal at least and the nurse informed me that they always default to vegetarian meals because it’s easier to accommodate a wide variety of diets. They also asked me to review paperwork and to change into anything that I would be more comfortable wearing since the IV would be in my arm for a few hours. I pretty much wore the same thing the whole time I was in the hospital, which was a pair of leggings, a big t-shirt, a hoodie and socks. I wanted to limit the amount of clothing that would be radioactive. They do not provide you with clothing, so bring what you will be most comfortable in. I made sure to bring layers with since I tend to run hot and cold at times.

About an hour later, the doctor met with me and explained the treatment, explained any risks and answered any questions I had. He then inserted an IV into my arm (two pokes for me, thanks to my sketchy veins from years of medical treatments) and sent me back to my room. After I was settled in the nurse came in give me zofran to place under my tongue to help alleviate any nausea and to start the amino acid drip, to help protect my kidneys during the treatment. On your table in the room, they have many bottles of water and they want you to drink at least two each day while you are in the hospital. It helps to keep you hydrated and to help flush your kidneys. I started drinking a bottle of water while I waited for the treatment and they let the IV run for about an hour before bringing me to the area they administer the PRRT.

The actual treatment – it’s no big deal

2016-05-19 11.56.05You will sit in a chair and they have a table that sits in front of you. On that table is a thick plexiglass box that contains the nuclear medication they user for your PRRT. The plexiglass acts as a barrier for the doctor. In this case, it was Y-90 for my first treatment. The doctor attaches the medication to your IV lines and slowly pushes the drug into your IV. It maybe took him three minutes. The only thing that I felt during the entire process that was my arm got very cold at the the IV site. When the doctor was done administering the drug, he literally took about 10 paces back from me and we chatted for a few moments before escorting me to my room – ensuring that I was keeping a good two meters away from the attendant. The IV with the amino acids was kept attached the entire time and would run for another four hours after treatment. During the time neither I or my roomie experienced any discomfort or nausea. We felt like rock stars. Radioactive rock stars.

Radiation quarantine

Now, my roommate and I were officially in our radiation quarantine. When we checked in we were informed that we would need to try to keep any garbage to a minimum. They did supply us each with a towel and washcloth. I brought my own toothbrush, toothpaste, and other hygiene needs.

Lunch was wheeled into our room on a cart and we were asked to place all of our plates, forks, knives and water bottles on the cart when we were done. Since you and everything leaving your body is radioactive, they have to separate it from other patients waste. All the waste water from the sinks and toilets in your room, along with paper towels, tissues, and other hygiene products are also kept in special holding tanks for three months until they are radiation-free. The food was unbelievably good. So unlike the food I have had in pretty much every single hospital in the U.S. The roommate and I joked that we checked into a restaurant and they gave us a medical treatment. Our first meal was a delicious vegetarian lasagna, potato leak soup, a frisee green salad with balsamic and a mango dessert. Seriously, it was off-the-cuff how great it was. We chatted for about a couple of hours after lunch and marveled at how many similarities we had in our lives, despite living on opposite sides of the world.

After lunch we both napped. I literally hadn’t slept well for two nights prior because I was so freaked out about paying the hospital. I literally collapsed and slept for a couple of hours. When we weren’t visiting, I usually had my chair pulled up to the window, with my tablet and looked down on the beautiful gardens below. I realized about 12 hours in that this is exactly how a cat feels – sitting in the window, gazing down at the world below and not being able to have access to it. By dinnertime, even though we had done nothing, I was ravenously hungry. Dinner was gnocchi, another green salad, potato leek soup and a delicious berry dessert. I could get used to that! We crashed about 10:30 pm and dreamed about getting to escape to the garden the next day.

>>> Part Six

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Dawn Marie
Dawn Marie
Patient and advocate for better diagnosis, treatment and quality of life for people living with neuroendocrine cancers.