Tuesday, June 8, 2010

#177: Radiation Therapy Begins

OK, first I have to tell you about "waffle face." This is not something that I read about anywhere, and I found it hilarious. Remember I told you about the mask, right? Here's a  good picture from Upton's Cancer Update.
They put a block under your head, then place the mask over your face and shoulders. Once it is bolted to the table, you don't move. This allows them to target the radioactive hoodoo very precisely. Yesterday, I slept through the procedure. They shot some "films" which I guess means they did X-rays or something, then they shot me with radiation. When I woke up, they removed the mask, and sent me rolling down the hall with my IV pole. I asked to use the bathroom, and when I looked in the mirror, I saw that I had what looked like a very mild sunburn in the diamond pattern of the mask. Mrs P said they looked like snake scales. They eventually faded, but they tickled me. We'll try to get some photos of me as "Lizard Man:" later on.

I was more awake for today's treatment. I'll be starting my weekdays at 8:30 for the next 6 1/2 weeks when I have a standing appointment with the radiation techs. On Mondays, I'll meet with Dr K. He's the genius who masterminds all the cosmic rays.

Here's how the day goes. You check in at the guard house where a sleepy man looks up your name on his monitor, then lets you into the parking lot at the Markey Cancer Center. Upon entering the lobby, you're greeted by a charming lady at the reception desk and a creepy baby grand piano that plays by itself. Even the keys move. Down the elevator to the G level, where you scan your ID card at the desk. This lets the radiation techs know you have arrived. Soon, one of them appears and calls your name. You are led down a long hallway to a room with an enormous door. The thing must be at least 10 inches thick, and swings on two, half inch thick steel hinges. Inside is the "machine."

It looks like a robot, which I guess it is. There is a smooth steel table with a linen "draw sheet" on top. They use this sheet to slide you into place once you are on the table. Your head goes onto a hard plastic rest, your knees go over a soft, prism shaped cushion. Then the mask is put in place.

The mask is soft, but firm. You can breathe easily, open and close your eyes, even talk if you don't wag your chin too much. Once the bolts are clipped into place, the team starts preliminary targeting checks. There are lasers all over the place. They shoot dots and cross-hairs that the techs use to match the landmarks that they've put on tape on the mask. Once everything is in place, they leave the room and the table starts to move. It lifts you up into position, and the robot swings forward. Sometimes there are arms that reach around from the sides. Sometimes the big disk hums and beeps. The entire assembly moves with easy autonomic grace. Well, most of the time it does.

The whole gizmo came to a stop and the gentleman tech came back into the room, I assumed to release me and send me home.

"We done?"

"Nope, the machine's broke down."

Broke down? Oh no. Tell me my fat ass didn't break the table. No, it turned out there had been some kind of software glitch and the whole gizmo locked up. Sort of the high tech version of the Blue Screen of Death. Since there is apparently no "Any" key on a zillion dollar ray gun, they shut the thing down and decided to move me to the neighboring room to finish my treatment. I swung my legs up without waiting for help, and he jumped toward me.

"Wait, wait, wait!" From under the mask, I hadn't realized how far the table moved. I was a good five feet off the ground. He brought me a stool, and I hopped down like a gazelle. After a quick trip to finish up next door, I was done for the day.

Mrs P looked tired when I came out. The last two days have taken a lot out of her. She drove me home and laid down for a well-deserved nap. I'll just keep going until the steroids crash. I figure I'm good for about another hour.


  1. Thanks for the continued updates. The process of entering the place sounds like something Maxwell Smart would do to go to work.

  2. I read every post, my friend...so let me know if u ever feel frisky enough for a visitor who's been thru sumpin like this...as a daughter of someone in it...I know the drill...u may feel like it , u may change ur mind, u may even want toddlers to come by and be annoying and entertaining at the same time...it all works for me. and even if u never feel like a visit, know that I'm out here...sending mighty blessings ur way!!!!

    Laurie Genet Preston

  3. Is that robotic machine Cyberknife or similar to it? My husband, John, did have three sessions with Cyberknife because his lung cancer was at stage 4 and inoperable. The oncologist we were assigned to told us about it and, thank God, it did completely kill the two cancer clusters in his left lung.

    Still dealing with other cancer and John just finished his third chemo treatment. The second day he was very cold (even though the temps in KC has been in the 90's) so I put an extra blanket on him even though I kick off all the covers.

    Thanks for allowing us to see your journal.


  4. Robyn, you and John remain in my prayers. We are all survivors, no matter where we are in the journey. I'll find out more about the gizmo today. I'm sure it has a more specific name than that.




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