I should start by saying that Paul VERY MUCH enjoyed meeting Dr Madsen and discussing the ins and outs of radiation technology. As it turns out, both very much enjoy talking about how things work, who sold which technology to whom, and which Stanford brains knew what and when. I got the feeling that those two could have blabbed on all day. Fortunately for me, however, Dr Madsen isn't only interested in the geeky side of radiation; she seems to very much care about me as a patient and wants to be sure I understand how this is all going to proceed. Phew! She told me that my Oncotype score (a 4) was "impressive" (low chance of recurrence) and that she is not concerned at all about the 0.07-mm cancer in my one lymph node. Yay!
After my meetings with Anne the RN and Dr Madsen, I was set up for the CT and then marked up with a pen by the doctor. Then the CT tech plastered me with wire tape and bb tape and sent me into the machine. For the last part of the scan, I held my breath for 30 seconds to show where my heart moves when I am holding my breath. The CT will help the dosimetrist determine where and how to deliver the radiation and whether I need to hold my breath during treatment. (That depends on where my heart normally rests inside my body.) Then after the CT, I got 2 tiny tattoo dots that are only visible with a special UV light. Unfortunately, I could not request a special design. The dots will help guide radiation consistently.
On Friday the 27th, I go for my dry run to be sure everything is properly lined up. Then my first real radiation appointment is on Monday the 30th. Then I go 5 days a week for 4-6 weeks. Dr Madsen does not yet know if I will need 4 or 6 weeks of radiation; the decision has to do with my anatomy and various tissue densities seen on the CT scan. The dosimetrist and Dr Madsen will make that determination. Stay tuned for that.
The anticipated side effects of radiation are skin burning/tenderness and fatigue. Unless a person is very fair skinned, it is nearly impossible to predict who will have skin issues. It is known that patients who have undergone chemotherapy tend to get more fatigued with radiation; otherwise, again, it's nearly impossible to predict. I intend to do the things that might help with both side effects: use creams as directed on the affected skin and exercise every day. At least I will feel like I am doing all I can. The rest is up to fate.
I am very happy with my choice to do radiation at Peninsula Cancer Center. Everyone there seems very upbeat, compassionate, and super smart. The technology is top-notch, and best of all, I get my own pink bathrobe to wear during treatments! (And Giselle, there is a resident dog in the nurses' office!!!)
For Bainbridge Friends: Several people have very kindly asked if they can drive me to radiation appointments. Unlike chemotherapy, I will probably not be too sick to drive during radiation. I PROMISE, however, to ask for help if I start feeling really fatigued during the second half of treatment. I will set up an email list of people who might be able to drive. (Send an email to me at email@example.com if you'd like to be on the list.) Then if I have a feeling that I am beginning to get too tired to safely drive, I will shoot an email out to the list. It will likely be a 1 to 1.5-hour commitment. I am requesting that my radiation appointments be between 11 and 3 each day, to avoid traffic times. If you need an excuse to have good pho at Pho T&N, come along! Because pho soup cures pretty much everything, I plan to stop at T&N a lot!