Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Radiation therapy preparation

I think today's CT scan and marking, or radiation preparation, went well. I don't remember exactly what happened during my previous radiation prep treatments so I can't really say whether or not this one went better or worse than those ones.

When I got to the cancer center I hadn't realized that I didn't have to check in at the main desk so I wasted a little bit of time waiting in line there. Fortunately I wasn't late and my nurse was so it all worked out just fine.

The nurse started off by explaining what would happen: that they were positioning me to receive the radiation treatments with the help of a CT scanner and that I would have to lie very still. To help me lie still, they would be setting up a mold around me and they would be adding compression to my abdomen so that I didn't move much when I breathed. At this point we don't know how many treatments I will be receiving as the oncologist wanted to see the CT scan to see what was going on around my sternum. It will take an unknown amount of time to make all the calculations. I'll receive a call for the first appointment sometime and when I come to that appointment I'll get the the treatment schedule.

It sounds kind of loosey-goosey, doesn't it? Normally when people go in for radiation, they're told how many treatments they'll get. Then again, most people are receiving a standard radiation therapy treatment for their cancer, and in those cases everything is pretty much known. My treatment is customized for me and must take into account the amount of radiation I've received to that area already along with the arrangement of my organs and bones. Customizing something always takes longer than giving the standard thing.

After she talked to me she took a photo of my face for my file (apparently I've changed a little in the last decade), a second nurse came in, and we got started.

I laid on a narrow, hard CT scanning bed with laser lines projecting down onto me. One of them kept going into my eye so I ended up just keeping my eyes closed throughout. Some of my alignment marking tattoos from the first radiation treatments are still there and they used those to align me. It's an odd sensation, lying there still and heavy while they pushed and pulled me into position. Once I was fixed in place, they pushed what would become my individual mold close to me so that I couldn't move. Apparently this mold is like a giant beanbag with little styrofoam balls in it; to make the mold, they suck all the air out and presto-magico, instant mold! When I'm done with it they force air into it and it relaxes again, ready to be used again.

Once I was fixed into position, the oncologist came in and added the abdominal compression. She kept tightening it until my breathing was balanced between comfortable and uncomfortable. It's difficult to describe the feeling of trying to breathe when my abdomen was prevented from expanding. I could only take shallow breaths - taking deep breaths was really hard what with the big weight thingy on my abdomen - which led me to feel like I wasn't getting enough oxygen. Then I would start to feel like I couldn't breathe and that I was starting to suffocate and I'd have to remind myself that I was getting enough oxygen and to relax. Keeping my eyes closed helped me stay calm, I think. So did all that meditation training - for a while I was doing that "breathe in through one nostril and out through the other" thing.

After all that, the CT scan started. This was just like other CT scans except that I didn't have to hold my breath and I didn't have to have any contrast injected into me. When the CT scan was done, the nurses came back, removed the abdominal compression, and made little x's where they wanted to place alignment tattoos. They gave me the little dot tattoos and let me go. The whole thing took about an hour.

I'm a little nervous about the treatment, I think. I was very chatty this morning (I get chatty when I'm nervous) and the nurse made it kind of clear that she just wanted me to be quiet and let them do their jobs. Closing my eyes helped me do that, too. I'm also having episodes where I'm feeling a bit depressed. I think I'm feeling this way because things are changing for me and I'm entering a new metastatic chapter. Add to that all the unknowns associated with this change and it's not surprising that I'm feeling a bit nervous and down. I'm not feeling so sad that it's a problem; it's just something I need to be aware of and I need to make sure I take care of myself.

After all this, the actual radiation sessions should be pretty quick and straightforward.


Robin said...

I like the beanbag thing, it sounds oddly comfortable :)

Chantelle said...

It was!! I'd have loved it if it was a bit squishier but just having something fitted to me felt great. And with it there I don't have to worry about holding a position so I can just relax in my beanbag thing.

manchester fat acceptance said...

I like the sound of the beanbag thing too! I scrolled down to say that lol. I appreciate your detailed explanations of everything.