On Monday, I finally managed to wrap up my 10th session of radiation. I have to say that it was a relief, as the driving to London everyday was quite tiring. As of yet, I haven't noticed any side effects, with the exception of fatigue. I find I wear down very easily but this should ease over the next couple of weeks. The radiation treatments themselves were short and sweet. My treatments were delivered everyday using a Tomotherapy machine. This machine is used to specifically target the areas of tumor growth, so there is less damage to surrounding tissue.
I suppose I should try to clarify just a little. I did undergo full brain radiation in order to halt the growth of two very small tumors in my cerebral cortex. The Tomotherapy aided in lining up the radiation with the two larger tumors in the cerebellum so the surrounding tissue was not damaged, only the cancer tissue. Both the full brain radiation, and the more specific radiation on the larger tumors are done in the same treatment session.
The Tomotherapy treatment itself has 3 stages.
<3 point form :)
A link to what the machine looks like -www.boston.com/yourlife/health/blog/TOMO1-web.jpg
1)I enter the treatment room and lay on the bed (read:hard table) and my lovely techs offer me a nice warm blanket to make me more comfortable (love them!). My face shield is strapped on (I'll get to that in a minute) and then I'm sent into the machine for a CT scan (5 minutes)
2) I pop out of the machine while the techs match the CT scan with my planning scan and ensure the radiation will be delivered exactly as needed. At this point I'm just hanging out in the table waiting for them to come back in.
3) The techs enter, read off some numbers, adjust some junk and tell me treatments is about to begin. They leave, and I get swished back into the machine.
I undergo 6 minutes of treatment. The sound resembles a vacuum for about a minute, then a noise starts circling my head that sounds like an old train engine chugging around the tracks.
I've told a few people about this, and they seemed to get a good chuckle, so I will share with you as well. When I was on the table going through the treatments, I needed to entertain myself. Everyday, I may or may not have been picturing myself riding around on that "train" in full out wild west style cowboy gear with a radiation gun shooting the crap out of the two larger tumors. If I know you, you may or may not have been beside me at some point, also dressed up in full on cowboy gear shooting along side me. Umhum. Okay, enough embarrassing stories for now. Oh, I forgot to mention that there were the most amazing flashing blue lights that started about 3 minutes in and lasted about 2 minutes. Had the techs not warned me about that, I probably would have thought that... well, I'm not sure. Apparently it is common, so there was no need to worry.
Two quick pictures of the face mask-
So... that was my radiation. It didn't hurt, just made me really tired. If anyone has any questions you can ask in the comments section and I will try to answer as best as I can :)
Onward to Chemotherapy.
I will try to keep this section as short as possible as I know the radiation had a lot of reading.
I spoke with Dr. Vandenburg on Tuesday regarding the best options available to me for chemotherapy. I've decided on taking oral chemotherapy at home with the intention of maintaining, if not shrinking the bone, liver and neck mets. I have chosen not to undergo any sort of stronger intravenous therapy. I realize that this is difficult for some people to understand, as they will just want these tricky guys to disappear completely, but my quality of life is just important to me as my length. At this point these mets aren't impairing my quality of life. If I can keep them under control and be able to focus on the things in my life that really matter, I am more than happy with my decision.
I will be undergoing 14 days of oral chemo, followed by 7 days off. This will happen for a total of 3 rounds and then we will evaluate how effective the treatment is.
If after 3 rounds the treatments aren't working, I will consider more drastic options, but for now, I'm happy with being able to take my medications at home and enjoy my friends and family.
As for the drugs that I am on, the side effects shouldn't be nearly as severe as the last chemotherapy I was on (Thank goodness!!!!)
There will possibly be heartburn, diarrhea, and something called hand-foot syndrome which causes the skin on my hands to get red and thin. Apparently I am supposed to put Udderly Smooth Udder Cream on my hands and feet to prevent this. Kind of strange? I could also experience pain or tingling in my hands and feet. I may have issues with mouth sores, so I have to start rinsing my mouth with baking soda/club soda.
Less common side effects include Fever, chills, cough, nausea, vomiting, bruising, chest pain, and red spots. Fingers crossed I don't experience any of that!
I am being put on another drug to help strengthen my bones and reduce any pain associated with the bone mets. It may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain. Less common side effects include change in kidney functioning. I'm starting off at 1 tablet 2x/day and then increase the next week to 2 tablets 2x/day. The pharmacist said that if its too hard on me, then I can take it back down and go up more slowly.
Okay, so that wasn't as short as I had hoped.
Thanks for reading you guys. Your support and love are so amazing. I thank my lucky stars every day that I have such an amazing support system. I can't thank you enough.