I was just about to leave my desk for the day when my office phone rang. A quick glance at the readout told me the call was coming from the hospital system that did my biopsy. Finally!!
It was indeed Dr Lin (the radiation oncologist) calling. Her 12 yr old voice had its usually pleasant tone to it as she went thru the niceties of asking how my weekend was.
I answered her with my heart beating wildly. Get on with it woman! was what I wanted to scream at her. She passed along the negative-for-cancer results I was so hoping to hear as if it was no big deal. As if I hadn’t been thinking about nothing BUT the possibility I might hear bad news. I barely heard her talking about our next steps while I did my happy dance in front of my desk and tried not to pull the phone out of the wall….
The next day I took the hour long trip to Emory for my first radiation appointment. I was warned that this appointment would be another long and uncomfortable one as they did test after test to make sure the machine was properly aligned. I was still walking on air with my “NOT stage 4” news that I was all willing to go thru whatever torture they did to me with a glad heart.
I walked into a large room made small by the massive machine that occupied most of the square footage. Holy cow! I thought the first mapping machine was big! Luckily I don’t have to describe it for you as one of the techs was more than happy to take some pics of it for me. Apparently it wasn’t a weird request. And he kindly draped a towel over me first. lol Yah -no photoshopping required.
Dr Lin was there along with 3-4 techs – one of them male. They all greeted me as I walked in and introduced themselves. Dan (the only name I remember for obvious reasons) explained the procedure and what to expect for all subsequent visits. I was told to take off my shirt and lie on the table. None of these techs made a move to leave the room but looked expectantly at me and waited.
Oh. OK. I was suddenly glad that I had lost my shame at whipping off my shirt in front of guys. Well, medical men anyway. I should probably clarify that.
I laid on the table that was already set up with the blue foam form made specially for me. I I settled back into it and raised my arm to fit into its torturous hold, instantly hating it. The form shall be herein be dubbed Guido!
The techs strapped my feet together again (yuk!) and moved me around on the table to line up my stickers with the laser lines. When I was adjusted to their satisfaction, everyone left the room and this giant thick door closed. Dang. I suppose. This is radiation after all.
I was told to lie still and to breath and hold my breath about 30 or 40 times while the machine spun around me. There was an xray module on it that took several photos of me to make sure the machine would not damage my insides. After about 20 mins a voice thru a speaker told me the doctor wanted to take a CT as well.
With the numerous surgeries I’ve had, there is very little tissue left on my chest and thus not much room between my skin and my heart. I was told it was vital to take the same big measured breathes that were designed to pull my chest wall as far away from my heart as possible. I was suddenly very glad that I quit smoking 20 years ago and did yoga for a few years. I discovered I still retained the ability to perfectly freeze my body from my old drama class days. My breath holds were highly praised by the team. Apparently this an issue with quite a few people.
It was getting more and more difficult as time went on to remain still in between breaths tho. My arm was aching so badly and my thumb and forefinger kept going numb. Stupid Guido.
I was actually excited when the disembodied voice finally told me they were all set to begin treatment. Almost done! I kept telling my poor arm. Hang in there!
The machine swung around again to my right side -the side where I could actually see having my head turned in that direction. Take a deep breath and hold…. I watched the inside of the machine move in an intricate pattern as a buzzing sounded. The buzzing stopped and I was told to breath again while the pattern re-set itself. They let me take a pic of this part of the machine. I was told that the pieces move to direct the radiation in a specific pattern.
After another dozen or so breath holds while the machine had rotated several times towards the other side of me, the voice said the words I was longing to hear: “Ok last one.”
Thank God! I couldn’t feel my hand by this point. Unfortunately, I was then told to remain still while they moved some of my stickers around. Ugh!! I was finally allowed to move my arm and sit up. The session was done. I picked out the time slot all my future appointments would be then drove another hour back home.
When I got home, I went to put the recommended lotion on and was surprised to see a deep dent in my chest. Was that there before? I didn’t think so, but the only pic I could find was taken maybe two weeks after the last surgery where I may very well have still be swollen. I asked the techs about today when I went in for my second treatment.
They were stumped and called my doctor in to take a look to be safe. Today’s treatment was shorter than the first, but still longer than I anticipated. I was told that I get x-rayed before every session to make sure all is aligned before they begin the 10 mins or so of treatment. That’s a total of about 20 mins I have to lie in Guido’s grip. Just long enough to make my shoulder scream and thumb go numb. The next 6 weeks are gonna suck.
The doc checked my previous pics that she had and said she saw a dent there before but it was covered with a sticker before so maybe it just looks bigger now. She wasn’t worried. Since the techs will see me everyday and the doc once a week I will have enough expert eyes on me and my skin that I’ll just trust them and let it go.
So far, the chemo pills are causing me no side effects -yah! I only have to take them on radiation days (M-F). I have random pains in my left chest but I hope they are just healing pains. It’s too soon for anything to be radiation related. A tech told me that I wouldn’t see any redness for a few weeks but she lies. The redness looks more like skin that has had a heating pad on it. It doesn’t hurt and seems to go away by the next morning. I’m staying well hydrated and using the lotions.
So all seems good. I won’t bore you all with the same “radiation again” story for the next 28 treatments. I’ll post again if something significant happens. In the meantime, assume all is well and please keep praying for Larry to finally succumb once and for all.