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Support > Patient-to-Patient > Patient Experiences & Guidance

I survived brachytherapy

Sheila's Story

I survived brachytherapy (curiethérapie in French) - they still call it that! The stay at the Quebec Cancer Foundation Hotel for those who live too far away & have more than one treatment a day & never know ahead at what time, across from the hospital; was quite an experience in itself. 

The worse-than-me cases made me feel very lucky & gave me hope & courage for myself since many said they waited linger & their machines malfunctioned often & some were there for 21 to 3 months of treatment with chemo/radio/surgery all at the same place & in 3-7 mos.

But there was a common kitchen to cook our food in, discounts at the hosp. cafeteria, nice rooms & decor, lots top read & videos to watch, computers, free parking, restaurants nearby. No tvs & phones in rooms but living rooms on each floor.

My therapy: A small machine with meat grinder front appearance with 16 or more holes in silvery color round front for long tubes for shooting radioactive pellets through more tubes screwed into my custom-made mouth plate glued onto tubes then bounced off the upper palate ina circle. The dosage was the same for the first 8 sessions but a bigger single one the last day.

It was 9 zappings in 4 days (Dec. 20-23)not 3 a day like they said at first. I.E.: 3 every 5 hrs Mon.; 3 at 8a.m. 1p.m. & 5:15 p.m. Tues, 7a.m. & 1p.m. Wed. 7 a.m. & 1:15 p.m. Thurs. @ 7 a.m. A resident doctor & 2 technicians were always present in the other room while I was alone with the door closed for 10 minutes. 

The radio-oncologist in charge was there sometimes. They put a jelly on the upper plate. I took Zanax the first 3 days then was ok re mind over matter, walking outside in very cold, windy winter weather, no breakfast or coffee first, very tured & nervous but all was ok. I didn't panic, or gag, could swallow & was well treated.

Was told that I may have burning, redness & maybe blisters plus soreness in upper palate in 7-10 days. To rinse at least twice daily with 1 tsp. salt in 1 litre of water & have a prescription (Magic Mouth Wash, Benydrl, Prednisone et al) in case it hurts too much. 

I am just starting to eat solids after having all upper teeth out & still have stitches but was warned may have to revert back to liquids & soft stuff with palate problems. See doc in Feb. only.

As you know, they extract teeth out in cases of cancers in the head areas where the rays will go through teeth to avoid decay & dental work.

I learned a lot about many types of cancers but not my own.

It has cost me $910. for extractions (not covered by our Gov. Provincial plan) & the hotel was $120. for both of us, plus prescriptions & special foods plus later-new plates-$2,000. or more since I need a new one on the bottom too but that's not to do with cancer or treatments. Thanks for your help & caring.

P.S. The cases I heard details about in hospital & hotel were emdometrial lining cancer, breast cancers, prostate, brain, lip tumor & esophagus. I was more traumatized by their stories than anything else. 

The prostate cancer advice by various urologists & oncologists make me wonder a lot about the poor men who were not operated on early enough when they had their biopsies & ASP tests & the cancer was contained only in the prostate at first. 

The bracytherapy, the hormonal therapy, the radiotherapy, the chemotherapy-all seem/seemed not to solve the problem as well as prostate removal would have done in the men from 65-78 I met. The wait & see attitude I would not accept if I were a man with...But I don't know all the details & maybe they were part of a clinical study not my business or field of expertise anyway-all patients' only words. 

I am lucky I didn't need surgery, lucky my chemo was only 3 sessions, found it worse than all else, teeth out not fun but the radiotherapy turned out to be the least painful in spite of my concerns.

I lost only 10 lbs from the summer til now, still weigh 200 lbs & maybe being fat helped me!haha

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