Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Radiation Day 1:Introducing Esther & Eshean

Radiation treatments began this morning. I arrived excited and ready to begin this next important chapter of my cancer ass kicking journey. I grabbed a bag of Smarties (the candy), my list of daily supplements (they wanted me to bring it - though they never asked for it so I'll bring it again tomorrow), and headed out the door.
My appointment was early - 8:45 am - so there weren't many people in the waiting room, just one other patient. He wasn't interested in the Smarties I brought in (he's diabetic) and I confessed that I don't eat candy myself anymore but it feels good to give so I invited him to take a handful of them to give to others that he encountered throughout the day and he dug right in.
A minute later I was being whisked to the back and peppered with questions about what I was wearing under my clothes. If I didn't know better I could have mistaken the questions for dating propositions haha. I knew where they were going with the questions and I proudly exclaimed that my new knockers no longer required hoisting apparatuses (aka bras) and thus there was no metal on my person other than the cross around my neck. I was delighted to learn that I could wear my cross necklace during the treatment.
I said hello to Esther (that's the name I gave the TomoTherapy radiation machine - a Biblical name meaning "star") and Eshean (the name I chose for the customized cushion I will be resting my head and arms on during the treatments - a Biblical name meaning "support") and I laid on the machine "couch" which is basically a hard table with Eshean on it for me to rest my head and arms in (raised over my head). Eshean was covered with a warm sheet and when I laid on him another warm sheet was placed over me as they lined me up to the alignment laser beam. They lifted my shirt to locate the tattoos they gave me for aligning with the beam, then lowered it and covered me up again and left the room.
Once the therapists (Joe and Mary Beth) were out of the room, they began the CT scan portion of treatment and the "couch" rolled me and Eshean into the big donut section of Esther where I stayed perfectly still for the scan and also during the brief pause between the scan and the radiation treatment. During the pause, Mary Beth came in and entered codes into Esther's control panel and left again and then I spent 7 minutes being radiated. I couldn't see the beams but I could hear them at work.
During that 7 minutes I thought about how relieved I am about the PET scan results, and how amazing God is for creating chemotherapy and radiation treatment, and of course the brilliant scientists and physicians He worked through to make it happen. Then I thought about how my left arm was going numb like it usually does if I have it raised above my head or if I'm leaning on it even the slightest bit. I began to wonder about whether the radiation treatment would cause lymphedema (it's a stated risk), and how safe it is that I'll be having 33 CT scans over 7 weeks. Then I remembered to not worry because He will take care of me no matter what. So I resumed breathing and the 7 minutes were over rather quickly and the "couch" rolled me out of the machine as the therapist reentered the room and handed me my schedule for the next 32 sessions.
I felt fine but by about 4pm I noticed my left breast and back of my armpit was already a faint shade of pink. Seems like it's a bit early (after just one treatment) to have color show up but I have faith that it's OK and I just keep putting on the greasy ointment to keep the skin moist and cool. I'm pretty tired - I'm sure it's not because of the treatment but rather the emotional release of the past 24 hours. I am going to bed early tonight - that's the plan anyway. Hopefully I can follow through and be in bed with lights out within the next 30 minutes. Another big and busy day tomorrow with a follow up appointment with Dr.G at UCLA, followed by support group and then radiation treatment #2 just before dinner.
Wishing you a blessed night,


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  2. You have such an amazing attitude through all of this. You are such an inspiration. You're positive thinking is such a great idea. I am a big believer in positive thinking and the power of prayer. And I'm sure you know without me saying, but you are still in my daily prayers. I think about you quite often...even as I was laying in the hospital recovering from my own surgery today. Love and Hugs

  3. Hi Julie! I hope you are feeling well and this radiation thing is not too taxing on you! Continue to feel strong and positive! I saw your other blog with the egg & kale recipe. Totally yummy! Must try making that myself one morning! xoxo