This morning’s radiation appointment was long and anti-climactic. The best part about it was how happy I felt when I was on my way home. It feels so good to be doing something proactive about this. It feels good to be finally getting active treatment besides surgery. And the worst appointment of these ten is over…the rest should be cake.
When I arrived at the radiation oncologist’s office a nurse, Mary, took some blood and then removed all of my surgical dressings. (She didn’t use my port this time since it still hurts from the surgery.) Randy was in the office with me while she was removing the dressings and as she began she looked at him and asked him how the dressing went this weekend. We all paused for split second, Mary waiting for an answer and Randy and I wondering what she was talking about, and then I realized that she was asking him because she thought that he had changed them for me each day. I told her that he wouldn’t know how the dressings went because I did them myself. She looked at me in astonishment and said, “You did it?!” I reaffirmed the fact that I did, and she seemed to think that was pretty great. To be honest, though, I can’t imagine asking Randy to do it. It wasn’t exactly the most pleasant experience. Plus, I probably wouldn’t trust him to do it exactly right. After all, I was given two pages of instructions about how to do it and there’s no guarantee that he actually would have read them. (By the way, Randy’s answer to her question about the dressing was something about the fact that it usually goes pretty well despite the fact that he’s about ten years behind the latest fashions. I married such a comedian.)
Once the dressings were removed we went into a CT scan room. One of the technicians in the room was the mother of one of Blake’s former classmates, so we spent a few minutes trying to figure out why we looked so familiar to one another. It was a bit odd to have her taking positioning pictures of me a few minutes later since the last time I saw her we were both helping out our children’s fifth grade teacher with a Valentine’s Day party, but I got over that pretty quickly. In the CT scan room I laid down on a large square piece of blue plastic filled with some kind of foam. The nurses formed the plastic and foam to my head and upper torso. It hardened and will be the mold that I lay in for each treatment in order to make sure that I am positioned exactly the same each time.
After a few minor adjustments, the technicians took a couple of quick scans that the staff physicists would then use to determine the precise position for the placement of the radioactive seed. I laughed to myself at the further oddity of lying in a room filled with five other people with half of my torso exposed, all of them studying it and discussing it and making adjustments and calculations. Nothing like a little breast cancer to chase away any modesty or hesitation about exposing myself to strangers.
After another quick CT scan, I was shown back to a room where I read Evidence cases for an hour and a half while the doctor and the physicists all consulted about
baseball statistics the best placement for the radioactive seed. At one point the doctor came in to tell me why it was taking so long, for which I was grateful. They have to be very careful and very precise about the radioactive seed placement because part of the MammoSite balloon is close to my chest wall. They worked to adjust the radiation by millimeters so that a lower dosage hit that part of the balloon, thereby preventing any damage to the tissue of my chest wall. Once I knew why I was waiting, I agreed that I would much rather have them take their time and make it perfect than risk any kind of damage.
Once they had the positioning figured out, things moved quickly. I was taken into a large empty room, about 14 ft. x 14 ft., that contained only a bed, the radiation machine (about the size of a large vacuum cleaner) and, in one corner of the room, a tri-fold screen. I laid on the bed in my now-hardened mold, the doctor hooked the radiation machine up to my MammoSite catheter, and then everyone (the doctor, the nurse and the physicists) left the room. A few seconds later the doctor’s disembodied voice boomed out through an intercom in the ceiling telling me that we were about to start. I felt nothing while the radiation machine next to me started clicking and humming, and 7 ½ minutes later it was finished. Soon after that, I was on my way home.
I have to go back this afternoon at 4:00 p.m., and then I’ll return Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and again next Monday, twice each day at six hour intervals. I will have CT scans done again this afternoon and tomorrow, but after that each treatment should go rather quickly. I feel absolutely fine and normal right now, so if there will be any side-effects I haven’t experienced them so far.
In addition, Mary told me that while I am there this week I can take advantage of any or all of their special services. They offer the services of a cosmetologist for a make-over, a masseuse, a nutritionist, a spiritual advisor, and a social worker, as well as access to a secluded little zen garden filled with lush green foliage, a waterfall and pond. In fact, between the special services, the muted lighting, and the heated gowns and towels, it’s nearly spa-like. Okay…I admit that you might be a little hard-pressed to find a spa that specializes in exposure to radioactivity and toxic poisons. Not to mention the fact that you probably wouldn’t really want to find one like that. But hey…the glass is half full, right?