A Patient Story – Roger J.


I watched the tear rise in my wife's eyes as the door to the double foyer closed and see watched me walk into the PRRT radiation ward. She wanted to spend the morning in my room prior to the testing of my body began. We had traveled two days to arrive in an unfamiliar small town in eastern Germany. Most of the town folk spoke no English and looked at us with an odd stare as it was obvious we were visitors in their historic city. The previous evening we had checked into a well maintained boutique type hotel and took advantage of our free time to explore the small resort town. It was the first week of December, the air was cold and the local residents were preparing for Christmas. The Christmas decorations on the Tudor style homes were crisp and impeccable.

My room had two beds and I was the first occupant to arrive. The male nurse spoke some English and delightfully helped me settle into what would become my home for the next week. He connected my internet, brought coffee and I settled into some internet browsing. I heard a knock on the door as it flung open and was invited to begin my tests. Over the next two days the courteous staff drew blood several times, performed two kidney exams, an ultrasound and of course the infamous GA-68 scan. I especially appreciated the staff taking special effort to explain each test and exam to make sure I understood not only what they were doing but why. The tests offered little discomfort.

We both sat nervously outside Dr. Baum's office as we waited to find out the scan's verdict. I crossed my legs what seemed like 300 times and continuously stood and sat as our wait lengthened. I finally saw his pleasant face and grey hair turn the corner and we followed him into his office. He graciously shared my SUV, standard uptake values, were high and I was an excellent PRRT candidate. I was relieved. I slept great that evening.

Ten o'clock the next morning the PRRT ward's head physician entered my room. I tried to crack a joke or two but she didn't seem amused. She finally managed a small smile when I asked her about her young son. The male nurse hooked up an IV to feed my body full of amino acids to protect my kidneys from the radiation. Finally he slid the thick lead box my way and carefully handled the radiation...Lutetium 177. It was supposed to do damage to the Carcinoid tumors in my liver. I watched the medicine enter my body through the IV and was surprised I felt nothing.

I was like an animal in a cage for the next two days. I felt great. No nausea and my energy level was out the roof. I was quarantined for 48 hours. My bags had been packed for hours as I watched the minute hand align with the twelve which meant...I was a free man. I roared out the doors, hugged and kissed my beautiful wife and headed to the nearest McDonalds. The food didn't seem right as my body began to feel odd. The nausea had arrived. It seemed like a tidal wave of nausea took over my body. The food tasted burned but it wasn't. I regretted not asking for anti-nausea medication. Next time I would. The flight home was long and my nausea would get worse before improving about a week later. I smiled and offered a hand pump as the planes wheels touched good old American soil. Dulles Airport seemed like heaven. Made it through customs and was on my way to retrieve my bags when I heard the deep male voice tell me to stop. I'll never forget his question, "Sir, have you had medical treatments?" I told him yes, showed him Dr. Baum's letter but he insisted to inspect my body with his hand held Geiger counter. My face dropped to my knees when he took our passports and invited us to a special room. His comments, "This radiation is only used for animals." The two hour wait in this small office made me want to rip his silly smirk off his face, my plane was on its way to my home without me and the purposively Home Land Security professional, could only shake his head with ignorance. Finally they had confirmation. I was human they accepted Dr. Baum's letter and we on our way home. But not until the next day.

Our second trip the following April was much easier. We understood the Euro rail, we knew the hospitals' protocol, and we had packed lighter but added a bunch of American food. The staff offered the kitchen on the PRRT ward for me to cook or heat my food. The staff was again pleasant, testing the same, but I still crossed my legs 300 times as I waited outside Dr. Baum's office to hear the results. The wait was worth it as I squeezed my wife's balmy hand when this amazing physician told us the treatment had worked. All SUV's had decreased. My tumors were beginning to stabilize. We cried as we walked the sterile halls back to the locked down radiation ward. I happily prepared myself for treatment #2. Even the food almost looked good this time. Still got sick after 48 hours and it lasted about a week. I had looked at Dr. Baum like a child as he chastised me for not getting my blood tested after I returned home. This time I did better. Of course all my blood counts were low. I still felt great but I would get tired in the afternoons. The flight home through Philadelphia was non-eventful. The scans let me walk through customs like I owned the place. Interesting.

The third visit in August was like old hat. We were now comfortable with the process. I just brought more American food. Yes...even the waiting and anxiety was the same. We studied the red, yellow and black scans and now the tumors had decreased. Yes I said decreased! My largest tumor went from 6.0cm to 4.6cm. Dr. Baum told us the third treatment would consist of both Lu-177 and Yitrium-90. I had tolerated the previous treatments well and my kidney functions were normal, so it time for more aggressive treatment.

We again smiled as the 747 touched home soil. Our hopes were high and we had a schedule to return to friendly Bad Berka in a year. The next two CT scans at my local hospital confirmed my tumors had decreased in size.

My wife and I smile at each other as we sip a glass of wine sitting on our deck knowing we had made the right decision.

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