November 07, 2015

Radiation etc.

It's been a whirlwind week of doctors but now I know what to expect through the next several weeks. If you remember, I told my mets many years ago that if they were quiet, they could live with me, but if they got noisy, I'd bring up the big treatments. So here we go!

1. I met with Dr Sandra Vermeulen, the gamma knife (targeted radiation) specialist, and she says she can zap my brain mets. Maybe only some of them, but some is better than none! She's going after the ones on the top of my head, where most of them live. Then she's going after the three largest in my cerebellum. We actually had a chat after our talk about where to zap, and she's not a chatty lady. Go Dr Sandra!

2. Then I saw Dr Stephen Eulau, my general radiation oncologist. He's treated me several times over the years, from the very beginning in 1999. He's an incredibly sweet, kind man, just the type of person you want on your care team. Now he will treat the two skin mets (the one on my head, the one on my chest), the enlarged lymph node on my neck, the newly diagnosed left shoulder bone met and the also newly diagnosed right lower rib bone met. I had a simulation last week and have to wear a plastic mask each time. It's got holes for my nostrils, eyes and mouth, but still it's icky. I get zapped for ten days, thirty minutes at a time. I didn't like the face mask at all, but a little Ativan helped relax me, as well as some yoga breathing and remembering to keep the top of my head touching the inside of the mask. It's pretty awful but I am tough. Tough enough to deal with a two inch round permanent hair loss. I'll just have to have a comb over like The Donald.

3. I spoke to the wonderful nurse Sally at the Cherry Hill Wound Center and she told me to stop wearing the plastic-ey Tielle bandages and switch to a gauze bandage attached to my skin with tape after I start radiation. I will be sad to lose the Tielles since they work so well and I can wear them in the shower with no extra covering, but Sally told me I can either remove the gauze bandage or cover it with Cling Wrap in the shower. Either way works fine.

4. Dr Flugstad the orthopedist was so happy to see me. It had been two years since our last visit. He's the amazing guy who fixed my left leg and kept me dancing all these years. Dr F confirmed that my left shoulder was not in immediate danger of a fracture (yay!) and that I also have some arthritis in that spot (boo). I guess not a surprise, since I have occasional off-and-on pain from arthritis in both thumbs. He also looked at the recent X-ray of my right rib and thought radiation would be fine for that spot, but noted that I have multiple bone mets in my ribs anyway. Then he watched me walk and confirmed that with the lift in my left shoe (and they were pretty amazing ankle boots) I could walk and stand without issue.

5. Then last and of course best, I saw the Amazing and Wonderful Nurse Jacque. She had to send me over to the lab for a blood draw, since I don't have a PICC line anymore. We shmoozed a little and Dr G came in for an exam.  He still wants me to see someone at SCCA for a second opinion. The only issue I have there is that they think inside the box and Dr G clearly thinks outside the box. But as he says, they know what's coming up next in the research and that can only help. So he will contact Dr Julie Gralow's scheduler. When I spoke with them she couldn't see me until January. Maybe Dr G can do more. And while I was sitting with him, he took a call from a doctor at interventional radiology about putting a "passport" in my right arm. He called me not a patient, but a close friend who is a patient of many years, gave him all the reasons I couldn't have another port-a-cath. From memory. I was so pleased to be in the room while he spoke to this doctor about me and let me overhear the details. This is why Dr G is clearly the doc for me (with apologies for the awful rhyme).

6. I also went to my weekly support group. When I gave my update -- I hadn't seen them in two weeks, since my collapse with shakes and fever while there -- four people offered to help while I was in radiation. Walk the dogs. Drive me to or from. Bring whatever I needed. It was so lovely to have friends new and old step up to help, even while they deal with metastatic cancer. Luckily when I scheduled the radiation, almost all of it will be at times when Rik can drive us both.

7. On Friday I had my latest dose of Alimta (pemetrexate), the new chemo Dr G wants me to take. I ran into a friend and we managed to get the nurses to put our chairs close together. She was alone but I had a friend and the three of us enjoyed a really good visit. This is my second dose of Alimta, and other than feeling like crap when I got home, I spent the day today lazing in bed. Dr G wants me to take Decadron on the day of chemo and for three days afterwards, but it's a very light dose for home. I hope not to have the midnight shopping mania so frequently associated with this steroid. Alimta is given once every three weeks.

That's a lot to report but it should take me through the next two weeks. I will write about how the radiation goes. Onward and upward in every direction!


  1. I am enjoying your blog. You write really very well. This post reminds me that my interactions with medical professionals are really about building relationships person to person. I've gone to see doctors, interacted with nurses. Most recently it's a physiatrist that I went to see and then there all the student doctors that I get to know. There really are far too many of them. But I have found that I enjoy the rapport I have with my specialists. There are some that I really enjoy as people and I get the feeling that it's mutual. They understand me, finding that relationship with a medical professional is really important. I am thinking of you and wishing you all the best.

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