Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Radiation--Friend and Foe

      "Sickness, ... changed a man.  He thought the of invalids he had known.  How often he had dismissed their querulousness and complaints as the outcome of self-pity! He knew better now.
      It was not only with themselves and their pain that the sick were concerned.   They were worried for others.  They grieved for the work they were causing, for the disruptions of other people's lives, the sapping of their energy, the tensions within a family and the awful possibility of increasing helplessness."
                 Return to Thrush Green--Miss Read

I received an unpleasant truth in an email from my sister-in-law a couple of days ago: 
"More and more I realize that radiation is a really sneaky thing—the aftermath just keeps coming and coming."

I have been living with the effects of radiation for nearly three years.  It is because of the radiation that I have life and I am thankful for that.  When treatment I rather expected that sooner or later I would return to a 'new normal', that looked quite a bit like the 'old normal', but I didn't expect some of the other problems I have encountered.  

I have been struggling with increasingly poor hearing since a few months after treatment was over.  My Eustachian tubes shut down filling up my ears behind my ear drums.  It felt like my ears were stuffed so I had tubes put in, with the information, "this can happen after radition." 
Oh. I didn't know that. 

Even though, I had less hearing that before, I was going along with new strategies to maximize listening: no shouting from room to room, looking directly at the speaker, etc.

Time went on.  My hearing got worse.  Oh, a tube fell out. 
"These will have to be put in every 18 months or so, but this one has left a large hole in your ear drum, which will affect your hearing." 
"And... your normally overproducing of wax in your ears is made worse because of the radiation"
It's hard and dry.
So, I was making regular 6-month trips to the ENT for tube insertion and wax removal.
"Now the other ear drum has a large hole as well, no need for the tubes."

It's getting harder and harder to hear in large groups, and even 'one-on-ones' need attention.
Is it time for hearing aids?  The apparatus is all there, It's just fluid and holes and...
I want my ears to work.
I'm only 51, by the way!

Wait, there's more.  
My left ear started draining.  The kind that drips right out of the ear, so after another trip to the ENT and a course of ear drops the drainage slows and stops.  But not before the infection had spread to the mastoid, which is serious and not something to play around with.  
I had a CT scan which showed, yes infection is there, it's not good and will have to be surgically fixed. 

On to Omaha, to an ENT specialist whose field of expertise is base of skull ear surgeries.  
Yes, surgery will be done to clean out the mastoid.  He can fix the ear drums with cartilage from behind the ear, and wants to test my hearing to see if I am a candidate for BAHA, 
Bone Anchored Hearing Aids.
(My hearing is also tested to see how much the infection removal and ear drum repair helps.)

I'm still rather stunned.  I'm not sure about an implanted hearing aid.  The surgery won't be a really big deal, there is no overnight stay.  Each ear will be done separately.  It is important that the ear drums are repaired because the holes make infections more likely,  I think the doctor said he will put valves in there, but I'm not really sure about that.  

It's a pain, but it's doable.  It's another hurdle, but a small one.  I can do this.
There are worse things.


Bonita Sue said...

Bummer, bummer, bummer.

Radiation, the gift that keeps on giving.......

But as you said, you're alive because of it too. Who knew the cyber sword would be so double edged?

Love and hugs and courage to my favorite sister-in-law.

Darcie said...

When the word 'cancer' enters an individuals vocabulary it seems that individuals life is filled with all kind of side effects one can not imagine. Glad you are still putting on a brave face and plodding forward. Hope the surgery will help.

Renee said...

Such a total struggle to keep dealing with residual troubles from the very thing that has preserved your life. I admire your "can do" attitude, you aren't Gramma's granddaughter for nothing!! Thinking of you with lots of love. AND the new fangled hearing aid may be just the thing to restore your hearing to what it was in your teens. I HOPE it will.

Anita said...

I feel like I'm learning along with you and another friend whose cancer journey started about the same time as yours. So I'm saying Thanks for sharing this, too, because there is so much I didn't/don't know. Xoxo