Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Getting Masked and Easy Chemo

So on February 22 I had an appointment in the Radiation Department to get fitted for a couple of masks.  They don't do tattooing for brain tumor radiation, what with hair cover the back of your head and people feeling funny about a black spot on their cheek or eyelid. So the masks - these started out as flat, hole-filled plastic sheets that are almost see-through. I laid down on a board in the CT scan room, and got my head in a comfy position. They put a plastic sheet in hot water to soften it. When it was soft enough, they pulled it out and shook it a couple times. Shaking it got rid of extra water droplets (they put towels all over the floor) and also balloons it out, to get the forming started and maybe make it easier.
Not my mask, but this is what
the small one for MRI's looks like.

So I laid still while they placed the mask over my head and screwed it into the board I was staying on. It started out feeling just a little too hot for comfort, but quickly cooled to nice and warm. Then they started forming it to my head, pressing in here and there, pulling up a bit on the plastic around my nose so if it tightened as it cooled it wouldn't smush my nose. Then they started putting cloths from an ice water bath on top of it to make the plastic set. They mostly wrung these out, so I didn't get too wet. They started with a smaller one to use for my frequent MRI's I'll be getting over the next few months. The elongated head shape reminds me of the creature from the move "The Abyss." Then we repeated the same process for the radiation room. This one started down at my shoulders and came up. They had asked if I was claustrophobic, and I didn't think I would be, and I wasn't. They were talking the whole time, and if I cracked and eye open I could kinda see through the plastic. And with all the holes in it my breathing wasn't constricted at all, so that made it very livable.  They took a CT scan while we were there.
Not my mask, but this is what the big one
they use in radiation looks like.

After that we went down to the MRI department and tried out the MRI mask. Worked like a charm, and boy are those MRI's noisy! They gave me ear plugs, but it was still pretty loud. CT scans are much quieter. And I found out (and was reassured before the MRI) that the titanium screws the Neurologist used to hold my skull in place are not magnetic. So I may not set off the Airport security next time I fly, hopefully!  ;)

Then we went back to Radiation (I got to ride in a wheel chair coming and going because it's hospital policy), and I got dressed. We set up an appointment for me to come back and get started with the treatments. They are going to have to wait for results from the CT and MRI to determine my full plan for the radiation. I guess it depends on how many cancer cells were left after the brain surgery (cause they try to get them all but don't take extra good brains cells at all). And also to figure what angles they will need to radiate me from so they hit mostly only where the cancer was. The first day is Set for March 6th, and I'll go every week day after that, but I don't know for how long yet. My wonderfulmommy is coming up to take me to the first visit because it'll probably give me a headache. After that I should be able to drive myself just fine (I asked specifically).

Then I went over to get my first easy chemo treatment. I waited for about an hour to meet with Dr. Hansen so I could ask how long I would have to have these treatments. He said it would go at least as long as the radiation treatments (I'll have one chemo treatment a week during radiation), and then we'll see from there. That's been the more frustrating part of this brain tumor, the Doctors can only make initial plans, everything from there is wait and see how it responds. Sigh, oh well.

So because we had my port removed way back when (I guess I didn't blog specifically about that, silly me), the nurse just started an IV in my right arm (because the left arm is a no-no for those things since they removed the lymph nodes). The first treatment took an hour and a half (it's a bigger dose to get started), so I had to keep my right arm mostly still for that long. After about an hour of room temperature liquid going into your veins, you feel really cold, so I asked a passing nurse to hand me one of the many fleece blankets they have in the room for patients. The visit this week (and all the following) should only be about a half an hour long, so that'll be good. I can choose to get another port-a-cath placed, but that's a whole other surgery, and even though its a quick and easy one, I'll probably avoid it because I can.

Anyways, the treatment went well, I went home feeling fine. I woke once in the night to use the bathroom and felt nauseous then, but was able to just go right back to bed and back to sleep. Yay!

Oh, and I am down to just ibuprofen and muscle relaxers during the day! I will take a quarter of a percocet when I need to at bedtime, but I was able to skip that last night too, so hooray!

I believe that's about it, love you all!