Radiation: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

My radiation oncologist once told me that radiation is the gift that keeps on giving. I’m finally beginning to understand what he meant. Three bouts with cervical cancer, radiation, chemotherapy, and multiple surgeries have left my body with a major issue…bowel obstructions. I had my first one in September 2016, and since then have had four more, each one requiring hospitalization. My last one was in July 2017 and it was the worst one yet. It came on with no warning at all and I have been told it will continually get worse.

I’m not an easy person to get an NG tube down. It’s a very traumatic experience for me and anyone involved. It took my general surgeon six tries to get it down the last time. He has come to the decision that I can’t tolerate NG tubes. What does that mean? What will we do when I have another bowel obstruction? Which, by the way, he says another one is inevitable. He suggested a PEG tube, better known as a feeding tube, to be used for decompression. Next time, instead of trying to put a tube down my nose, they can use a small tube on my abdomen that is coming from my stomach. YES! No more NG tubes! He actually wanted to wait until I have another obstruction to do it. I, however, decided to be proactive. Why wait until then? Let’s schedule surgery and do it while I’m well. So, I made an appointment to see him in his office. He and I had a good talk that day, and he agreed to schedule me for surgery and do the procedure. Yay me… I think?!

He is not my original general surgeon and is not the least bit excited to operate on me due to my extensive history. He actually told me the first time he met me that he wouldn’t touch me with a 10 foot scalpel. My body is so damaged. He also said that a bowel obstruction will probably be what kills me. WOW…REALLY??? Deep down I knew this, but to have him hold my hand and look me in the eyes and say that made it all very real. He had no plans to do the procedure if I had plans to use it for feeding purposes later on if needed. He got no argument from me in this. I have no desire to be kept alive by tubes and machines. My surgery is scheduled and for some reason I am having mixed feelings about it. I know I need it and I am not about to change my mind. However, isn’t it ironic that I’m getting something that can help me, but in the end won’t save my life??

In reality, I wish people had a better understanding of what this cancer and its treatment can do to our bodies. I can tell you from my own experience that it’s not easy at all.

Laura Fletcher is 44-year old, 3-time cervical cancer survivor from Leachville, Arkansas. Read her Cervivor Story here.