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Radiation and my special needs

January 3, 2010
by Kathleen Mears
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When I finished chemotherapy, an appointment was scheduled with a radiation oncologist. Since I had radiation therapy eighteen years before, I wondered what changes have occurred in radiation oncology that would positively benefit me.

I approached my appointment with some trepidation. My experience with radiation therapy in the past had been a system of trial and error. My arm had to be elevated into a position which was uncomfortable. But I reasoned that that was the only way radiation therapy could be done. Back then there were no therapists to consult on special-needs cases. I wondered how this radiation oncologist would do things.

On my appointment day I was in the waiting room a few minutes past my appointment time. Then I waited in the examination room for an hour. When the doctor came in, he seemed anxious to have the man who drove me leave the examination room. I thought he wanted to examine me and asked my friend to wait outside.

The doctor seemed hyper and he asked me a myriad of questions in rapid fire succession. He wanted to know about my disability, and how well I could move. I endeavored to give him a sense of my functional ability. I told the doctor that I knew it would be more difficult to give me radiation than a patient with normal functioning. The doctor asked if I felt I could lie on the table with my right arm trussed up during the treatments. I told him that I had done it before and that I felt I could do it again. But the doctor kept shaking his head. I knew he was considering something.

Then, abruptly the doctor left. I sat in the room and wondered what was going on. There was no patient activity in the hallway, and radiation treatments appeared to be over for the morning. After a few minutes, the doctor and a female therapist came in.

We had a brief discussion about the treatments. The therapist said it takes 10 minutes for a patient to get a treatment. They thought it would take 30 minutes or more for me. The therapist checked my arm's range of motion and easily moved my arm to the position needed for treatments.

Then they said it would be better for me to go to a different facility to be x-rayed, measured, and tattooed before radiation treatments. This other facility had a larger machine which would make measuring me easier. Though I was a bit confused, it seemed better to go to this other facility that could accommodate my special needs.

The doctor and therapist suggested I could get all of my treatments at this other facility. They reasoned that the trip was only eight miles farther from the nursing home. Though they were looking for a better solution for me, I felt they did not want to treat me.

I have an appointment this week at this other facility. The Director of Nursing here has offered to go along. I am hoping that despite my level of functioning they will find a way to give me the radiation treatments that I need.

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Kathleen Mears

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Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...