Friday, December 28, 2012

And so this journey comes to an end

Today, the Christmas tree was down, the mistletoe was gone.  But it was still the same place, and still the same awesome friends that I have come to enjoy talking to so much.  It was the same drill, yep, that is my mug shot on the computer screen, but I was smiling, you know my birthday by now but it is required, and where are we treating.  Check.   My mistletoe friend was already in the room getting things ready.  For the last time the shirt came off and my head comes to rest on the uncomfortable plastic head rest.  The red eye in the ceiling shining bright.  The handles fitted firmly in my hands, and in I go, the last time I hope to experience this mask.  So they line up the lights on my marks on both sides, mask set, they say they'll be right back.  The machine begins to spin.  For the last time, the xray head comes out, and goes up like Number 5 Alive.  I hear the zzzzzzz, then it spins 45 degrees, another zzzzzzz, and then it collapses.  The table giggles as they make final alignment changes.  The spin begins, which starts below me, but top right I can see the bottom leg of the machine.  First zap complete.  It rotates and comes into my left peripheral vision and then up to about 10 o'clock.  Another zap complete.  The tech comes in to move the table, final angle to the right a little, and the head at about 2 o'clock.  The zap is over.  In comes the techs clapping.  I throw the hands and sigh a big relief. While none of this hurt, the mouth sores were dry and I needed water.  Up I go for the last time.  Almost forgot to take my photo, the red eye in the ceiling.  It shined to my left just a little, but the red beam was there to line up one of the many points of reference.  So I come out, and I get the certificate of completion.  They also gave me some hugs and kisses chocolates, but what was more valuable was the hugs I received from the techs who do such an awesome job to make a situation that is so so real become something easy to complete.  My hat is off to these technicians, what an awesome time they made this for me.  So I rang the bell 3 times which told everyone someone graduated, and signified the end of my treatment.  I brought some treats that an elf baked, and I left with a smile knowing it made them smile too.

This battle is not over, but I have survived twice now.  There is no giving up.  Thanks for all the prayers and support, this journey now ends and a new one begins.  I find out more 31 Jan, so here's goodbye to 2012 in a few days, and hello to an awesome 2013.

The red eye that beamed down on me each day

Thursday, December 27, 2012

White Flag, one to go!!!!

Today was bittersweet as I hit number 9 out of 10 treatments.  But the mistletoe was pulled down and packed away.  So ends the storytelling.  Ha.  Today's treatment went extremely fast, and uneventful.  I am so close to finishing it kinda stinks that the mouth sores are causing a lot of discomfort for me, but I will take it as that is really all that has popped up.  I got a prescription to help counter the discomfort of the two sores that make it no fun to eat.  Moving forward, and looking forward to 2013, gonna ring it in and look forward to a new year and surviving yet again!

This photo is the bottom side of the machine that pushes out the radiation therapy.  While you cannot see the panels that form the beam in the black area, I always new where it was aiming based on the angle as it rotates.  and yes, if you look close enough you can see the alignment marks that mean something when assembling/deassembling in the upper left corner.

Krypton's Beam

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The countdown has begun..... 3....

Another great day in the radiation mask, though it was a bit hard to keep from laughing while they were getting the xray portion complete.  Being that I caught the crud this weekend, I wanted them to know that if the cough starts, I might have to stop.  So got me aligned and left the room, did the X-rays, but seemed to take a bit longer before the machine started to move.  Since all I could do was sit and imagine what they were doing, the voice comes over the speaker and says they are watching me and not gonna give up.   This made me laugh, cause I knew why she said that.  I had a snowflake ornament made that has the green lymphoma ribbon on the back, and my favorite quote I post here often on the other side.  Part of that quote talks about not giving up.  Then she said it a second time and I knew she was just trying to keep me preoccupied while they finished the setup, who knows, maybe they needed to reboot the system.  The first series of clicks started and I knew it was time.  3 shots and that was all she wrote.  Because I mentioned the mouth sore that has formed, and the need to see the doctor again this week, I was finished and snapped a photo for my memories, and up I went to wait for the doc.  This is a photo from the control room where they setup all the numbers on where the radiation is applied.  Sometimes it is hard to take a photo as some information may be displayed on the monitors, so I am always careful to ask before snapping.  But its pretty cool!

At the control
Met with the nurse first to talk about how I am doing.  Of course, the flu hit me, a mouth sore, sore throat you name it.  Lost about 9 pounds which they don't want happening, but when you are sick you are sick.  All in all, a quick visit and off I went.  Follow-up will be 31 January, so we'll see how things go and I am sure I will be back in to see my onc at some point too.

2 days to go for treatment

1 day post Christmas celebration

5 days to New Years Eve!!

6 in a row, the mistletoe did work.  Priceless!

Friday, December 21, 2012

After two weeks, we're heading into the final stretch

5 days straight, the throat is a little sore, but more importantly the dry mouth makes it feel like a hair ball is in my throat or a nice coating of flim.  The skin isn't showing much change, maybe a little dry, and I can tell where the hair is not growing, but all in all, I feel fine.  Each day this week I have taken a photo to show a little bit of what this experience is like.  Todays is the magic to the beams.  All these numbers represent how the radiation is going to be focused onto my mass.  No I cannot explain them, but I see them every treatment.  3 more treatments to go, gotta take a break so everyone can enjoy Christmas, and then we'll finish up and cruise on into the new year.  So for now, I am doing great.  Thanks for all the thoughts and prayers!!

Today, I got two hugs, and two kisses on the cheeks at the same time from my awesome radiation therapists.  One wore a head band that had mistletoe hanging, so I had to return the favor.  That mistletoe sure worked well today :) :)

4 Days til Christmas

5 days til traffic starts to clear up

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Time moves fast with it all lines up

Today was treatment number 6, and ended with a visit with the rad onc.  I was in and out of the mask in about 10 minutes today, treatments are going so much more smoother now, and it is all based on alignment.  When my xrays match up with my original CT scan, the radiation treatment is started and finished in no time.  I have shown photos of the markings that make that alignment possible, and today, it was right one and in no time I was out.  So today, I wanted to capture a photo before my mask was removed.  Wanted to see what the red light I stare at looked like from the outside.  So I took a photo and one of the techs took a side shot for me also.  I have the most incredible team that I put my treatment in their hands.  They mean so much to me.

Many have asked how I do it.  These are the first shots I have taken where it shows me in the mask.  The one the right leaves nothing to wonder.  The mask is very form fitting, and keeps me aligned so the radiation treatment is directed at the mass for optimum destruction. :)  Once everything is aligned, the computer takes over and the three doses accurately treat me as planned.  So when I am laying there, with a small dose of medication to help me relax, you just close your eyes and wait.  But hearing the machine noises, I can't help but open my eyes and look where it is turning and what it is doing.  So far, I can tell when they are using the xray portion to check my alignment, and when they are rotating for the first radiation.  I hear the clicks and adjustments and can almost predict when the radiation starts.  After the second treatment, I know that the techs will come in, rotate the table, and measure the markings sometime, then one more treatment and they come in to release me.  I can say that after 4 or 5, the mask doesn't bother me.  Sure it feels tight, sometimes much tighter, but its what will help me be cancer free so I just deal with it.  I have spent a bit of time thinking about how I want to photograph my mask after I am done.  I will enjoy that project for sure.  While many people have told me they could not do it, but I bet you can.  When you understand the benefits of any challenge, you would be surprised at what you can accomplish!

4 treatments to go.  Doc says we are on schedule and all looks good.

5 days to Christmas

9 days, actually 8, I will be a second time survivor


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

50% done, doing just fine!

Today was my 5th and quickest treatment, which puts me at 50% complete.  I think I am noticing the fatigue as I seem to get tired earlier than before.  Not too bad but something I noticed.  The sore throat seems to be more first thing in the morning but goes away in the afternoon.  The dry mouth isn't too bad, just trying to stay hydrated.  All in all, everything is going well!!

I was worried today that the mistletoe broke again, but ended up with a hug so that means it is sorta worked, but 3 for 3 LOL  I have an awesome team that takes good care of me for my treatments, so happy to have them.

I didn't take a photo yesterday, but I managed to get a shot of one of several laser beams that they use to line me up on the table.

You decide what you see!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Destination: 2013

So the last few days are upon us in 2012, and the Christmas cheer is growing.  Day 4 of 10 went off without a hitch, and one of the quickest treatments of all.  Guess that means the line up was perfect and the radiation flowed right after.  So far, feeling good.  Dry mouth is returning.  I feel a little in the sore throat arena, but many around me are ill so hard to say want it is from.  Haven't noticed much fatigue, but that will creep up on me I am sure.  So number 4 went down fast and uneventful, this week is cruising right along.

And on a positive note, the mistletoe worked a second day in a row.  Might have been due to the cookies I brought in, but I will keep to my story and it was all me.  :)

Monday, December 17, 2012

First of 5 this week

So today's treatment went as well as can be.  Was in the mask the least amount today, which was awesome.  I tested the mistletoe when I got there and it worked today, so I guess they fixed it over the weekend.  Now that was a special surprise :)  My niece Molli went with me today and got a look at how it all went down.  From what she has said, pictures don't do the mask justice  compared to seeing it up close and personal.  I also learned a little regarding how they line me up with the laser beams.  I feel the table move at times, but never really know what it mean.  Kinda cool watching how they line me up via the X-rays.  So I now have 3 treatments behind me, will be interesting how I feel after 5 doses this week.  So far, no really bad side effects, dry mouth mostly, was worse saturday morning, but by the night, it was much less.  Hard to figure out what will happen, just doing what I can to stay on track.

Today I post a photo of the treatment waiting area.  I am amazed at how nice it looks and really makes a difference as you go down to get ready each time.

8 Days till Christmas!!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Day 2 wrapped. Full steam ahead!

Second dose of the radiation went in today, not real problems.  I had to be reseated in my mask as I did not have a good line up, but once we started over, in a matter of minutes I was done.  Very easy and still pretty cool.  So far, not sure I feel much fatigue, but I am noticing the dry mouth.  No sore throat yet, nor the thick saliva.  No complaints.  But all good, two days off, and then 5 days in a row.  That will be the true test.

For now, full steam ahead and no issues.  Come on 2013!!

11 Days till Christmas!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Radiation Day 1

Today begins my 10 treatments of radiation therapy to get rid of the mass in the lymph nodes in my neck.  I was a bit nervous for today, but excited to get started.  I made it through having the mask on, it was longer than expected as they had to do some xrays first to double check the alignments.  So I went to my happy place and time flew.  Today's treatment went off without a hitch.  I had two awesome techs that made it that much easier.   My first question was once I get locked in the mask, could I break away from the table if I panicked.  Yeah, I wasn't thrilled cause they said not really, but with a lot of force.   So that basically means no.  They assured me they would be watching the cameras and all I had to do was move my hands, and they would stop it all and come in.  I did not need to exercise that option.  Whooooo hooooo for me.

So the machine starts to spin around me, they announce over the speakers that they are taking some X-rays, I wondered what this machine really did.  I couldn't see much, but I heard the movement and sounds.  With each spin I wondered what it was doing, and when would it start.  While I thought I had it all figured out, I never knew when it started. And was shocked when they came in to start unlocking my mask.  It hasn't really bothered me today, looking forward to getting number two behind me, and the big week next week.  So onward we go.  Here are a couple photos I snapped today.  :)

I think it is called a linear accelerator
Special marks to pinpoint

Complicated and fan

This video shows what this linear accelerator does for the pinpointing the radiation therapy.  Pretty cool!!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Here comes the Kryptonite

Got a call from the rad onc, and they are collecting some kryptonite to blast through the mask and hopefully wipe out the mass in the neck.  First treatment is scheduled for the 13th, and it won't be unlucky.  While I was hoping that I would be done by Christmas, just not gonna happen.  So, I am going to rock it into 2013 and finish up right before the new year.  Will let you know what it is like going back under the mask to help with the radioactive kryptonite!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

What have I gotten myself into?

Radiation Treatment Mask
So today was regular maintenance treatment day, which all went fine.

I also had my CT Scan in preparation for the radiation therapy on the mass in my neck.  The image to the right is a mask fitted to my face and shoulders that will be used to lock me down to the table so I am not able to move during the radiation therapy.  This is very close to the most confined I have been.  Had it not been that the technician was marking the lines on my mask during the last 5 minutes, I might have called it off due to my throat drying up and feeling confined, thus making the breathing difficult.  The marks on the mask are where the lasers will line up the beams to direct the radiation.  While it was not the most fun, it didn't really cause me to feel claustrophobic, but I could feel my pulse in my neck, and just like looking through a fishnet at the eye holes.   Best part, I get to keep it.  Look out photo project at Christmas time. haha

So all is going well, ready for the therapy to begin, just waiting on my rad onc to set me up.  10 days, 15 minutes each, let's do this and then drink some egg nog.  Oh and the best part, they don't want me to loose weight over these 10 days of treatment, so bring on the cookies LOL

If you are interested in the process of fitting the mask, you can watch this youtube video, which starts at about 30 seconds in.  While this is only 5 minutes, I was in the mask for like 30 minutes today, no simple task.

Monday, December 3, 2012

1.21 gigawatts of power

Okay, so only 200 rads, but couldn't help but reference an awesome movie Back to the Future.  So I met with my radiation oncologist today, from now on called the rad onc.  Kinda neat to see a doctor come in for a consultation and bring in no papers.  Just sat down, shut the door, and rattled off my entire experience with cancer without even blinking.  He laid out what was coming up for me, and then asked if I had any questions.  I did ask why removing the mass wasn't an option, even though I kinda knew why.  :)  There are many lymph nodes, and removing one mass might not get all the little ones in the area that might be building.  So, here we go.  Thursday morning I have a CT scan that will help pinpoint where the radiation therapy will be applied.  I will be fitted with a mesh mash that will hold my head in one place for the treatments.  I will have ten 15 minute treatments of radiation, each about 200 rads or whatever term is used, wish I could be 100% on that but just can't. :)  At this dosage, there should not be any harmful effects that could occur like damaging the salivary glands in the throat and mouth.  Might have a little discomfort in my throat that feels like a sore throat, and maybe some mouth sores, but nothing too bad.

Hoping for a good experience, and sounds like I am in good hands.  So here we go.  I'm in!