I'm not going to lie. The first day of radiation kicked my butt. It was the longest and roughest day of this battle so far. Monday started off at 8:30 am at Dr. K's office so she could place the balloon device. It turns out that the device the doctors elected to move forward with is not actually a balloon...it is the same shape as the balloon but allows for more precise control for delivery of the radiation...especially to the the areas where there is such a small gap to the skin. The device kind of looks like one of those claws at Chuckee Cheese's where you use a joystick to maneuver it around in a (futile) attempt to pick up some random stuffed animal. It seems the radiation "claw" is a newer technology and a specialist from the device company came down to assist Dr. K with the placement.
The device placement procedure finally got underway around 9:30 am. I was feeling "happy" from the vicodin (I elected to skip the valium). Dr. K starts by administering a local anesthetic to pretty much the entire left side of my left breast. That translates to about 20+ needles sticks....though only about 5 or so actually hurt, the rest were numb. Then she makes an incision to insert the device with guidance from an ultrasound. 20 minutes of pushing, prodding and adjusting later, step one on the road to radiation treatment was completed. It was now 10:30 am and we headed across the courtyard to the radiation treatment offices to meet Dr. H with my newly installed Alien claw.
The radiation is a multistep process that starts with baseline scans in a CT machine. Then there are lots of measurements and planning that goes on behind the scenes to determine the customized "treatment plan" for delivery of the radiation in the exact right doses to the exact right location. A team of doctors, radiation therapists, and physicists all work together to put the plan together. Then I was moved to the "High Dose Radiation" room for the set up and delivery of the actual radiation.
My device has 7 cables that each receive a certain dose of radiation for a certain amount of time. Other long cables are hooked up to my device cables then measured, noted and finally hooked into the machine that delivers the radiation. All this planning and preparation concluded a little after 1 pm and they were finally ready to administer the treatment. The team retreated to their control room leaving me in the HDR room. They could see me through video cameras and we were able to talk through microphones and speakers. They tell me over the speakers we are ready to start. A nearby machine about 3 feet tall and a foot wide, whirrs to life. The machine sends out a dummy radiation seed through each of the 7 cables one at a time and I can her them descend and retreat 7 times. Then the real deal comes through each cable. The time each seed is sent out is different depending the complex plan that the team worked out earlier in the day. The actual treatment itself takes around 6 minutes or so...or the length of 2 John Mayer songs, because I got to listen to the John Mayer on CD during all the prep and actual treatment.
After the radiation is delivered, a physicist comes in with a Geiger counter to ensure I'm not radioactive or anything else in the room. Once the room is cleared a radiation therapist comes in and unhooks my cables from the cables hooked to the machine amongst other things. And finally a nurse comes in to dress and tend to the incision where the device goes into the skin. So by the time it was all said and done, I was released from treatment number one around 2 pm. But guess what? I had to come back in just 3 hours to get ready for treatment number 2. Brad, Mom and I went to lunch and to kill the next 3 hours because we didn't have enough time to eat drive home and back and back again.
We were back again at 5 pm. Back to another CT to check everything is still in place. Back to the HDR room for prep, treatment and clean up. Just before 7pm we were free to finally go home after an exhausting day.
My little Alien doesn't hurt, but it is rather awkward. And the biggest disappointment was learning my new friend would prevent me from taking a shower for the entire week. Yeesh.
Today I completed 2 more treatments....only 6 more to go. Signing off for now so I can get to bed and get up early to head back over for an 8:30 am treatment followed by a 3 pm treatment tomorrow.
I wanted to extend my thanks to all my family and friends who have reached out to Brad and I. Your thoughts and prayers are all very much appreciated!
I hope to be back on Wednesday evening for another blog update.