Ok so you know that I keep saying that the people who work at Sloan are all gorgeous. Just naturally gorgeous, like no heavy makeup or plastic surgery or anything, just plain beautiful. I mean the nurses, the doctors, the administrative assistants, all of them. And they even have the nerve to dress impeccably too. It makes me sick.
Even the men look like underwear models, if Abercrombie and Fitch ever sell scrubs they have a ton of models ready for them!
Oh so this post is about radiation. In case you were wondering...
I get into the radiation oncology office on May 17 and this tiny little doctor comes in (another student of course, Sloan is swimming with them), she's adorable. But she's sick and her nose is leaking like crazy. John is totally panicking, he is a germ phobe normally, me having cancer has only made him worse in that regard. She takes my history and does a short exam. She gives me an overview of what radiation is, she is very nice, informative and is excellent at explaining things in terms I understand. I like her leaky nose and all. But again, she's an attractive little pixie like everyone else at Sloan.
So imagine my surprise when Dr. Chan and his nurse Veronica walk in and they are big pudge balls. I was SO fucking happy. I know this makes me evil, but they walk in and my brain yells "MY PEOPLE!!!" I don't know how they slipped through the job screening process. Maybe they started out thin and now that they've hit the Hostess Cupcakes they can't be fired? Or maybe Sloan has an affirmative action program for pudgy people (would that be affirmative in-action?)?
All I know is, I finally found the fat people. There's 5 of them total and they all work for radiation oncology. I don't know two of them personally, but I've seen them around, they exist and I go out of my way to smile at them in the hallway. I wonder what they think of that. Though I suspect the smiles we share are really a silent mental fat girl high five. But I digress.
So Dr. Chan tells me he's talked to Dr. Krug and there are two possible approaches. The conservative approach, which is a one time treatment to zap the big brain met, the one that bled in March. Or we can radiate the whole brain and go after all 9 mets (btw that is the final number, I'd been avoiding learning that number for a while, but that's it. I have 9 mets in my brain. Which sounds like a lot, but when you read the brain MRI report it says 9 mets. The cat scan, on the other hand, says "innumerable" masses in the lungs, so imagine how many cancer mets I have there, they don't even bother counting them, fucking A!) Dr. Chan thinks, if I agree, we should go after all of them. I was like FUCK YEAH! I'm so glad he's gung ho about this.
I can't explain it but before I met him I had this fear that they would say, "well we looked at your scans and we're sorry we can't help you. You'll just have to go home and die now." I know that's stupid, but I felt that way before I met with Sloan for the first time in Jan too. I think it's just a natural fear. I was surprised to discover that John had the same fear, so that's interesting, I bet all of us had that thought swimming in our head actually. So when Dr. Chan is like let's be aggressive and he talks about how treatment should actually get rid of the brain mets, not just treat them, I am excited. I was like dude you mean they'll be gone? And he was like "oh yeah". Not, "well we'll see", he's like yeah I'm going to kill those fuckers (my words, not his). I wanted to kiss him!!!! And then after we talk about side effects and we ask loads of questions, which he answers honestly, but with an infectious positivity, we sit down with Veronica.
She goes over the side effects again in greater detail, but like all the nurses at Sloan, she then starts to arm me with the info I need to deal with them. So I will lose my hair, I've been waiting for that for months, but it actually will happen now. So in a couple of weeks, I'll be bald. Now with the chipmunk cheeks and redness from Tarceva, it will not be super attractive but I'll take it, cause my brain mets are dying baby!!!! And then we talk about skin irritation, so my forehead and scalp will feel a bit sunburned. There's the fatigue of course, which is actually hitting me right now, but it's not insurmountable. It's just, hey it's 3 pm I'm tired, I felt that way at work and headed to the snack machine. So basically it's not a new symptom to my life, ha!
There is a possibility that I'll lose some short term memory. I had read about that somewhere on the internet. But I read it's less likely with radiation on mets cause they require less radiation than tumors that initiate in the brain. But Veronica tells me that if I go to the store, I have to write down what I was going to buy. I was like, um I do that now. And everyone in the room agreed, so again, nothing new to my life or anyone else's apparently. And the only other thing we go over is that because I'm doing whole brain radiation I might get cataracts when I'm older. I was like if you can get me old enough to get cataracts, I'll throw a fucking cataract party and invite the whole radiation team, I'll party my "can't quite get anything into focus" ass off! And then there's mild headaches and something about my hearing. I forget, uh oh, losing my memory already...
I had to have a simulation the next day which John kept calling rehearsal. Which now makes me wish there was singing and dancing involved and of course I can't get the first number of A Chorus Line out of my head "5, 6, 7, 8, "...."Who am I anyway, am I my resume..."
So I meet these two technicians who take a mug shot of me and then put me on the table of a cat scan machine and get me ready to be fitted for...the mask. It starts out wet and feels like a warm towel. One of the techs puts her hands on my face to the mask can hug the curves of my brow bone, nose and chin. There's a big hole for my nose so breathing is not an issue. And all in all, it's not an unpleasant experience.
I go back this past Monday thinking I'm going to have my first treatment, but I'm wrong, it's another simulation. See they have to take the mask, which is now hard as a rock, secure me to the table with it and make sure my head is at the right angle for treatment. So they take all kinds of pictures and x-rays. On Tues. I have my first actual radiation treatment, but only after some more x-rays. Turns out this whole radiating your brain thing takes a lot of accuracy, and these guys take it seriously. And what I love is that despite being all business and obviously awesome at their jobs, these techs (and there's 4 that do my treatment, my team as it were) never lose sight that I'm a patient, they are always concerned about my well being. Am I comfortable, nervous, claustrophobic, are my knees ok, etc... I love them. Plus they let me take a picture of the mask which is super cool.
But treatment itself is literally 2 minutes long. Now I understand it will work it's way up to 6 minutes by the end, but for now, it takes me more time to hop my fat ass on the table than it does to actually radiate my brain. It's totally fascinating. Travelling to and from is a bitch, but after my and other people's experiences at SIUH, I'm not taking any chances. For all I know they'll fry my damn foot off or something, so I'm sticking with Sloan, traffic or not.
So today I had treatment #4 of 14 total. I'll have one every week day (sans Memorial Day) until June 16 I think. I'll know how well it worked by the end of June. And then we'll regroup once again and find out what the new routine will be. So from 6 hours of chemo every three weeks, I'm now doing 2 minutes of radiation every day for 14 days. Who knows maybe at the end of June it'll be leaches or something. But you know, I'll be ready...
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