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Dealing with the embarrassing stuff
Puffin
21 Posts

I have Merkel Cell Carcinoma, a rare and aggressive cancer. Today I start the second round of radiation after the 2nd surgery within this year. The cancer came back immediately after the first round of radiation which was 5 weeks, 5 days a week. Because of the location of the cancer last time - on my upper hip over to my right buttock, it meant lying face down, pulling down my pants and baring my butt each day for treatment. This time, the cancer moved into my groin and lymph nodes were removed but also part of my vulva. I look deformed there now, a chunk is missing on the right side. I'm single so it's only me who sees that.

Today and for the next five weeks, I get on the table and expose my private parts while they move me around to get me positioned just right and then leave them like that until the radiation completes. I'm not really looking forward to that part of it.

I am looking forward to radiation itself because it's my next tool to try and tackle this cancer and that part I'm eager to get on with, especially since it was delayed a 2-3 weeks until a seroma from the surgery shrunk down.

I just am not looking forward to this particular part of it. It must seem like very small potatoes…..I just needed to say it to someone and I haven't found it in me to talk to anyone I know about it. I hope I'm not making anyone uncomfortable. Hoping someone with similar experiences might have some thoughts to offer. Thanks regardless.

Puffin

16 Replies
Runner Girl
2289 Posts

@Puffin

I am so sorry for all you are having to go thru and now another indignity with your radiation treatment/location.

While not quite the same, I did feel much embarrassment when I had radiation for my breast cancer. Nothing like lying there on the table baring yourself to everyone while they line up your tattoo dots so you become one with the radiation machine. Thankfully the techs were kind and understanding. As soon as they had me lined up they covered what could be covered as I was cold. The treatment didn't take very long so was thankful for that.

Remember, you are not the only one they see exposed. I'm sure, to them, it is truly nothing new. I'm fairly certain they will take all the steps they can to give you as much dignity as possible.

Maybe look at it as you'll do anything at this point to ensure the cancer gets killed off, if this is what it takes, so be it. You've been through so much already, you're so strong, soon this will just be a memory.

Runner Girl

Whitelilies
1667 Posts

@Puffin Hello…..I am sorry to hear of the challenges, you face now……I may bring a HINT of laughter here to you…..

Well….trust me; I TOO faced a lot of “exposure”……DOWN THERE…..(colon cancer)…..I recall Radiation as well……(Sunnybrook Hospital)…….I had to have a full bladder….while undergoing a session. I had a lovely Radiation Technician; same age as my SON….he looked 22 ! Young Spry 'thang…..He then said “Please lower your underwear…..so we can see the Tattoo/Marker Dots”…….I blushed…..followed his instructions.

He then said LOWER IT MORE!!!

YUP: full disclose of “Below Equator !” (actually lying, on my back….beams went through the body…..)

SO: moral of this is…..time to laugh….focus on getting these Radiation sessions completed….(with dignity and humour, intact)…..

AND: I am sure, as mentioned earlier….the Medical Staff “Have Seen It All!”

One more chance for you to laugh……When I met my Surgical Oncologist……who was about to perform my 3rd colonoscopy; I almost fell off the gurney; He simply HAD to be Handsome & Young & Ready 2 scope!…. I said “Why are you not an Architect?????”

He did not laugh……I did…….you too?

They want to help you. Period.

Regards

Whitelilies

#laughteristhebestmedicine

Dave58
290 Posts

@Puffin I'm so sorry you have to under go such embarrassing treatments. I always said the any thing medical had to be either painful or embarrassing.

Not too long ago I had to go to the ER due to chronic constipation because of the meds. After the male ( thankfully ) nurse consulted with the ER doctor he came back in and said we'd try an enema and ask me if I was able to do it on my own. I told him I could and assumed the position and then realized that the nerve pain across my chest wouldn't let me do it. He was about to step out when I called him back and told him it was time for me to throw embarrassment to the wind and would he please administer it for me.. He said it would be no problem and that I was not the first that had to be helped with an enema.

So please don't let the possibility of a test or treatment cause you the stress of embarrassment. It's just not worth it. We'll always be here to help you in any way we can !

Puffin
21 Posts

Thank you @Whitelilies @Runner Girl @Dave58 I appreciate your comments ever so much and we all have our situations to manage, from the looks of it. Thanks for weighing in, it helps considerably to hear from others managing their own challenges.

As is often the case, thinking about something is worse than the thing itself. The last time I had radiation, it was different people each day and there were students as well. They were all great and supportive and sensitive but I really wasn't wanting that many people to be on view for this time. I was expecting the same place and same situation.

Instead, I'm in a different radiation area and I've got the same two people every day for the duration except for a period of time when one of them goes on vacation and one other time. Lisa, my main technician, is wonderful and supportive. It was a good first day and a much better scenario than I was expecting. I'm very very grateful.

Puffin

Boby1511
720 Posts

@Puffin

hi there.

i was thinking cold! Can they not position you than put that tiny sheet on you?

sending you best wishes as you undergo treatment

Puffin
21 Posts

@Boby1511

All the rest of my clothes are on. The area needs to be exposed for the radiation. In the previous radiation, they did cover the area of my backside that could be covered. I haven't been cold, that's not an issue for me. The first day went well and I'll just get 'er done from here. Thanks Boby1511.

supersu
559 Posts

@Puffin

I am glad that you have lovely RT's to support you. Lisa sounds like an angel.

good luck with this chapter of your story.

hugs
su

#cancerinintimateareas #embarrasingprocedures #healthcareprofessionals #merkelcellcarcinoma

BellaBlue
18 Posts

I also felt very exposed during radiation on my breast. I don’t know why, I’ve had sooo many procedures in my life, but for some reason it really bothered me. I mentioned it to my oncologist and she asked if I wanted to be scheduled with female technicians. That’s what we did and I felt much more relaxed. Maybe there is something that they can do to make you feel more at ease. Ask for what you need to help you get through this, no one needs more anxiety.

@Puffin

I know a guy right? But I'm the one that was always shy in the locker rooms and didn't even like going bare chested in the swimming pool. In one of my first CT scans they gave me the mandatory hospital gowns and no pants. So I'm hanging in the CT waiting area, trying to stay warm (it is Canada after all) and trying to stay covered up. I ended up in a conversation with another guy who was further down the treatment road and we both agreed that the first thing to go in the hospital setting is your dignity.

I'm amazed at the wonderful suggestions made here, all focused on maintaining that dignity. It is important and we need to advocate for it. It is often the elephant in the room. I recently listened to a podcast that gave me some language to talk about these sensitive subjects. Liz O'Riordan is a breast surgeon with breast cancer. Her insights coming from both sides of the diagnosis are truly interesting and apply to more than just breast cancer. In one of her first episodes of a new podcast she talks with a sex educator about #sexwithcancer #sexualhealth

All sorts of bits of info but the ease and language that she introduces go a long way in helping with one of the most under-rated issues in cancer.

Angus

Dave58
290 Posts

@Puffin I'm glad to hear things are better than expected and your treatments are progressing. You GOT THIS Girl !!!!!!!

Trillium
1654 Posts

@Puffin - thanks for sharing this embarrassing part of your cancer journey. I would ask if they had something to help you relax or see if my GP could prescribe me something. I would have to have it for me so I can imagine what it must be like.

You might want to consider joining the Women’s Room group which is private and only seen by its members versus the public. There may be other women with a similar issue there. Hope your treatments will be successful. Scroll down the groups page at the link below.

https://cancerconnection.ca/groups

#vulva #radiation #treatment #embarrasingprocedures

Puffin
21 Posts

@Trillium thanks for your comment and suggestion. I'm not at the level of anxiety that I feel medication is warranted however your advice is noted if that changes. I didn't know there is a Womens group. Also noted for future.

Puffin
21 Posts

@WestCoastSailor thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts. I'll make time to listen to the podcast and glean what I can from it. Much appreciated.

Puffin
21 Posts

@Dave58 thanks Dave. Appreciate your encouragement!

Puffin
21 Posts

Well, second day of radiation and the appointment was in the clinic next door with two new people. That didn't last long. I guess they have to do what they have to do to make sure folks are taken care of and they're doing what they can, I figure. I've decided I need to put my big girl pants on (and pull them down too as it goes…) and focus on the benefit rather than any embarrassment, keep my sense of humour where possible and get it done - 2/25 down.

Thanks to all for the helpful support

Puffin

Charles
103 Posts

FWIW --

Shortly after I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, I realized that my “private parts” had become “public property”.

When I had my most-recent urine-flow test, I just barely stopped myself from telling the female uro nurse:

. . . “Don't bother leaving – it doesn't bother me.”

. charles

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