Thursday, November 17, 2011

Radiation planning complete

Today's radiation planning session went very well.  It took about 30 minutes for the technicians and doctors to get me placed properly and calculate where to place the dreaded tattoos.  I've heard some horror stories about having to stay in the same position with your arms over your head for up to 45 minutes.  I'd say that I was in that position for just a few minutes, maybe less than five.  Then I was allowed to relax my arms while they were back in their "command central" doing whatever they do.  There was one CT scan (which showed those notorious internal mammary nodes to be looking normal) which took less than a minute.  The doctors and technicians came out a few times to check and make sure I was comfortable.  After they were sure about placement, the techs came out and one of them did 6 quick tattoos.  They didn't hurt physically - very small needles were used.  I asked about alternatives to the "lifetime" reminders but they had nothing to offer.  Only one is likely to ever be visible to the public - it is in my "v-neck" area.  And if my skin had any freckles or marks at all in that area, it would probably blend in and be unnoticed.

Dr. Harris told us that they will be able to radiate my chest wall without involving my heart and lungs.  That is very encouraging as heart and lung damage has been a real concern.   The electron beam technology allows them to calculate angles that can direct the radiation to the right areas and avoid damage to vital organs. 

While we were waiting for the valet to fetch our car, I got a call from my medical oncologist and she informed me that my tumor markers (CA 27.29 test) were in the normal range.  The top of the range is 38 and I was at 34.  That's ten points less than they were seven weeks ago, so I am happy about that.

Today's round trip to Boston was just over four hours.  We didn't encounter any unusual traffic on the way in, but it was raining a little when we left for home.  And we were leaving just after 3 p.m. which is the beginning of the evening rush hour.  Hopefully with the upcoming holidays, we'll be able to trim some time off this run.  With students going on semester break and workers using up leftover vacation time, the traffic should gradually decrease during December.   

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Zaps to begin soon

Just got back from my appointment with Dr. Harris, and we now have a plan.  I will go on Thursday for the planning session, which takes about an hour.  I'll get five tattoos (not happy about that) to assist with lining me up for the treatments.  They will make a custom plate to protect my heart.  On 11/29 I will go in for a dry run and CT scan, then radiation will begin on 11/30.  There will be 25 treatments to my chest wall, internal mammary nodes and supra-clavicle nodes.  An additional 5 treatments (boosts) will be directed at my mastectomy scar line.  They will be using electron beam technology as it keeps the radiation closer to the skin and chest wall...shallow...and away from the vital organs. 

Not exactly sure about how the holidays will impact all this; but if my calculations are correct, I will be done on January 9th.  Now we need Mother Nature to postpone winter weather. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Hair Journey and Other News

I spent a little time putting together some pictures of my chemo hair experience, which is now five months along. The top left picture shows me getting that pre-chemo buzz cut on June 12. That's when I saw my real hair color for the first time in about 20 years! The bottom right picture shows my hair coming in on November 12 and colored with a little help from L'Oreal. It's just a temporary color but it looks better than the "grandma" white that you see in the picture on the bottom left. I'm pretty happy, at six weeks post-chemo, to have hair that could even take a color!

I had my six weeks follow-up with my oncologist last Wednesday and it was delightfully uneventful. My labs looked good and I feel pretty good, too. Earlier the same day I had an appointment with my new primary care physician, so I am now doubly assured that my ticker is working properly, I weigh 122, my blood pressure is normal and neither doc could feel any unwelcome lumps or bumps.

One cool thing - let's give a big "hurrah" for electronic medical records! My new PCP is part of the Elliot Hospital system. Because they have e-records and Dana Farber is somewhat tied into Elliot, she has access to all of my records that have been generated since we moved here. Even better, they can electronically transmit your prescriptions directly to the pharmacy of your choice, including the mail order guys like Express Scripts. Extremely convenient!!!

I have an appointment on Tuesday with Dr. Harris, my Radiation Oncologist at Dana Farber. I thought this might be the radiation planning session; but based on the confirmation call that I received on Friday, I now think it's just a consultation. I'm sure we'll get started soon. Not looking forward to it, the daily drive is going to be tiring for both of us. This, too, will pass...once it gets started.
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