Thursday, October 28, 2010

Gearing Up for Radiation

So here is a textbook definition of the grand adventure that I am about to start: "Radiation therapy involves using a large machine called a linear accelerator to deliver precise amounts of high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. The radiation stops the reproduction of cancer cells while minimizing damage to healthy tissues. Radiation therapy has been shown to improve survival in women with breast cancer."

Yesterday was my first radiation appointment with Dr B -- yet, another doctor for me! She, of course, is my radiology oncologist! So here is a run-down of what happened yesterday (the was the planning session -- also called simulation):

The drive to radiation therapy is not going to be an easy one. It's over on the west side of 270 which means about 45 minutes to an hour from work and from home. Boo. When we got there yesterday it was sort of a weird feeling because this was supposed to be where I started my treatment post-lumpectomy back in June. Back then, I assumed that I would get the radiation out of the way before the Fall semester even started. But little did I know that I would get a rare infection from the surgery followed by a second lumpectomy and then chemotherapy. So now -- the end of October -- I am finally starting what I should have been finished with by now!

Do you sense a little anger and frustration on my part?? (you should!) I met with Sheri (the nurse I have been working with over the phone) and Dr B -- they explained how the whole radiation treatment will work. I will have 33 sessions (6 1/2 weeks) of coming there everyday. Yep -- you read that right. Everyday Monday - Friday.

During the planning session, Dr B mapped out the right breast area that needs the treatment. She used a special X-ray machine called a simulator (apparently, the process is called simulation because the treatment is being "simulated," or not really given). She told me that it is so important to position the angles of radiation accurately; at one point there were about 10 people in the room (including two male "interns"!) who were all staring at me as I was horizontal on the table looking up. I had to sit very still for about 20 minutes while a "cradle" was made of my upper body and the technicians made temporary marks or "tattoos" on my chest. The cradle part was weird! It was some sort of blue foam spray that was warm -- which was sort of nice since the room was cold and I wasn't wearing a shirt! After the cradle was made, I had to get some sort of CAT scan and then the technician (Dr B was gone by the point) walked me through what will happen once I start coming in everyday (starting next Tuesday, Nov 2).

At one point (before the cradle was made), Sheri, the nurse, walked us (Jim was with me!) back to the actual radiation machine so I could "meet" it. It was way bigger than I expected and I could feel tears welling up immediately. To counter-act that, I joked with the nurse and pretended everything was OK. I think it was just that I expected something "smaller" -- like a hand-held device that someone waved over my breast, not a huge machine that looks like an MRI (the picture at the top is a stock photo of what my radiation machine looks like -- it's not me! Not yet, at least!).

Anyway -- November will be a challenge -- radiation and chemo at the same time (I have two more chemos left).


  1. You'll do great. It all looks frightening...but once you get the hang of it...easy peasy!

  2. Wow--I will definitely be praying for you and thinking about you during this challenging time. I have to tell you that I can somewhat relate to the male intern part of your story :-)I had an entire TEAM of interns--male and female--come in while I was delivering Aidan. Yeah...nice, right? And I'm pretty sure they were all younger than me, too, which was weird. I gave my consent for them to come in, but I was honestly in so much pain by that time, I would've agreed to anything!
    Anyway, love you! Hang in there and know that we'll be waiting anxiously to see you in January.

  3. Take care sweetheart. I wish I lived closer so I could be with you more. One of us lives too far away. You are doing awesome and like one of your races, you will finish and win.