Filed Under:  Columns, Opinion

Radium, a deadly killer or select healer

30th December 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Fr. Jerome LeDoux
Contributing Columnist

How is it that doctors use the same cancer-causing radiation to heal cancer through radiation? Questions like this cross one’s mind while lying under a protecting/aiming mask to receive six 6-second bursts of radiation into the follicular lymphoma above the left eye.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki by catastrophic intent, Chernobyl by rending accident, all have the unthinkable in common: the unleashing of the most destructive force on earth. If you want an idea of nuclear power, check out the sun that is one big nuclear reactor doing its job for us with mind-bending efficiency and precision at the tidy distance of 93 million miles.

Some 90,000 to 166,000 died in Hiroshima and 60,000 to 80,000 in Nagasaki in 1945 when an atomic bomb was exploded over each. Although perhaps only 31 were killed near Chernobyl in 1986, people are still coming down with cancers and deformities. Radiation kills by overwhelming concussion, by incredible heat or by causing deadly cancers.

Yet, the same radiation that kills by causing cancer can be corralled to train its devastating power with pinpoint precision on cancer cells invading the human body. “It is enough to do the radiation just two days in your case,” Dr. Cavey said. “Once radiation has broken down the cancer, your immune system takes over and finishes the job.”

Instead of the originally-planned daily sessions five days a week for a month, Dr. Cavey decided to do only one radiation session Nov­ember 11 and 12. “Those radiation sessions should be enough to weaken the lymphoma. Your immune system will finish it.”

In the meantime, Dr. Ganesa wanted a bone marrow biopsy taken to discern whether the small hotspots in the stomach revealed by the Petscan had some connection with the bone marrow. Two assistants had me lower my pants to reach the pelvic area some two inches to the right of my tailbone. This turned out to be an adventure using a local anesthetic.

Almost the way a dentist does it upstairs in the gums, they inserted a needle at the desired point downstairs. As if I were not listening, one assistant said, “It was much easier to insert the needle into the other guy.” The second said, “He was fat! This is a muscular butt!”

I had to restrain the urge to giggle. As a dentist would, the needle man worked the anesthetic with his finger to spread it around and make it more effective. After a couple of minutes, one said, “You are going to experience a strange feeling when I extract a bit of your marrow.” It was indeed a strange suction feeling once, then a second time for a bit more.

Then angling to the right, they went after a bone sample. I could feel and hear some kind of a knocking on the bone, indicating that bone must be chipped because it is so hard. In a surprisingly short time, samples had been harvested from the marrow and the bone.

At a follow-up meeting on December 4, Dr. Cavey studied my left eye intently, nodding his approval that the tear gland swelling from the follicular lymphoma had shrunk and eventually disappeared. He was satisfied that his work on that eye was done.

“Exactly as you said, Dr. Cavey, after you had weakened the lymphoma by focusing radiation on the wild growth Monday and Tuesday three weeks ago, my body’s immune system finished the job by turning on the lymphoma, shrinking and destroying it.”

I went from Dr. Cavey to the lab for blood work, then on to Dr. Ganesa’s office for follow-up. She reported, “The bone marrow biopsy showed 10 percent follicular lymphoma cells in the bone marrow, but they are of no immediate concern. This lymphoma is so slow that I will observe it every three months for the time being. See me in late February.”

“Has your vision improved?” is a frequent question. Somewhat oddly, at no moment was my vision impaired, although my narrowed left eye was a bit of an inconvenience.

“Do you have any pain?” is the other frequent question. Apart from the dentist-like needle prick during the extraction of bone marrow and bone, I have experienced virtually no pain throughout the entire half-year adventure of a narrowing left eye to radiation to now. I did not even endure an ordeal that would measure up to the hardship of a sin offering.

What these multiple happenings have exposed is the paramount importance of one’s family, extended family both biological and spiritual, and devoted friends who follow closely with prayers and best wishes whatever is unfolding, assuring the afflicted of their love.

I have no doubt that, joined with my years of striving for inner peace, the prayers and
love of my family/extended family have produced in me a positive, fearless, God­ly outcome.

While we believers lean on the knowledge, skill and experience of doctors and nurses, we must never discount the power of prayers emanating from our relatives, friends and acquaintances as well as from people around the world whom we do not even know. “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of,” Alfred Lloyd Tennyson shared so perceptively some 180 years ago amid terrible stress of his fears and anxieties.

This article originally published in the December 30, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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