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Mammary mutiny

A site to update friends and family on Kathy's breast cancer journey.

Latest journal entry

Radiation starts soon

Sorry I have been incommunicado. Not much has been going on, cancer-wise, so I have been working, traveling (short stint to Florida, combining work and vacation), and right now, a week-long stay-cation at Folly Beach. We rented a beach front house, and Tom's family flew in. It has been lovely.

I interrupted my beach time to go to the Cancer Center today for my "simulation"--a planning session for radiation. It was odd to walk back in there after several weeks' absence. Can't say I was happy to visit, even if I didn't have to go upstairs for chemo. It wasn't panic-attack-inducing or anything, just not where I wanted to be. At least they didn't have to use any of the things in the cabinets pictured.

The simulation involves having the radiation oncologist put stickers on you, two finger widths outside the edge of the breast tissue, all around the breast, while you lie on your back on the gurney that goes into the CAT scanner. Once you and the stickers are in place, they put you in the instrument and look at you from the control room to make sure you are situated correctly. In my case, they adjusted my position one more time and then we were ready to scan.

First, they have you breathe regularly for a series of scans. Then, they have you breathe "in through your nose, out through your mouth, in through your nose, and hold". You hold for 15-20 seconds while they take additional images. Inflating your lungs moves your chest wall away from your heart, protecting it from the radiation they plan to aim at your breast. Apparently, with some people the breath hold position is better for radiation, and in others, it doesn't matter much whether they hold their breath or not. Dr. Decker will analyze the scans and decide if breath holds improve things a lot, or only negligibly, and that will determine where I go for radiation. For some reason, they don't do breath holds at the downtown Roper, but they do at the Cancer Center in West Ashley. Downtown is more convenient to my work, so I'd prefer that one. But I have fairly good lung capacity, so I have a sneaking suspicion that I'll be doing breath holds in West Ashley.

The CAT scan was fast, pretty quiet, and painless. It did not require contrast dye, so no IV, and no odd pants-wetting feeling. It looked like a normal CAT scanner, though I don't recall previous instruments having a light up circle of red LEDs staring at me from above my feet. It was reminiscent of the Eye of Sauron. 

Once the scans were done, the tech had me stay still while she moved me out of the scanner and she took photographs of me in position. She removed the stickers and in their place marked me with a bright blue pen, then put Tegaderm plastic dots over the marks to protect them from washing off. I have a mark on my sternum, another in line with it about 6 inches down towards my belly button, and two on either side of my torso. These marks help them position me in exactly the same way every time I go in for radiation.

I go in again next Friday (16th) after they have had a chance to analyze the images and put together a plan. That appointment will be a "dry run", and if everything lines up as they expect, I will start radiation the following Monday (18th). It will 5 days/week for 6.5 weeks.



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