Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sadly, there is no magic crystal ball

On Monday, I finally managed to wrap up my 10th session of radiation. I have to say that it was a relief, as the driving to London everyday was quite tiring. As of yet, I haven't noticed any side effects, with the exception of fatigue. I find I wear down very easily but this should ease over the next couple of weeks. The radiation treatments themselves were short and sweet. My treatments were delivered everyday using a Tomotherapy machine. This machine is used to specifically target the areas of tumor growth, so there is less damage to surrounding tissue.
I suppose I should try to clarify just a little. I did undergo full brain radiation in order to halt the growth of two very small tumors in my cerebral cortex. The Tomotherapy aided in lining up the radiation with the two larger tumors in the cerebellum so the surrounding tissue was not damaged, only the cancer tissue. Both the full brain radiation, and the more specific radiation on the larger tumors are done in the same treatment session.
The Tomotherapy treatment itself has 3 stages.
<3 point form :)

A link to what the machine looks like

1)I enter the treatment room and lay on the bed (read:hard table) and my lovely techs offer me a nice warm blanket to make me more comfortable (love them!). My face shield is strapped on (I'll get to that in a minute) and then I'm sent into the machine for a CT scan (5 minutes)

2) I pop out of the machine while the techs match the CT scan with my planning scan and ensure the radiation will be delivered exactly as needed. At this point I'm just hanging out in the table waiting for them to come back in.

3) The techs enter, read off some numbers, adjust some junk and tell me treatments is about to begin. They leave, and I get swished back into the machine.
I undergo 6 minutes of treatment. The sound resembles a vacuum for about a minute, then a noise starts circling my head that sounds like an old train engine chugging around the tracks.

I've told a few people about this, and they seemed to get a good chuckle, so I will share with you as well. When I was on the table going through the treatments, I needed to entertain myself. Everyday, I may or may not have been picturing myself riding around on that "train" in full out wild west style cowboy gear with a radiation gun shooting the crap out of the two larger tumors. If I know you, you may or may not have been beside me at some point, also dressed up in full on cowboy gear shooting along side me. Umhum. Okay, enough embarrassing stories for now. Oh, I forgot to mention that there were the most amazing flashing blue lights that started about 3 minutes in and lasted about 2 minutes. Had the techs not warned me about that, I probably would have thought that... well, I'm not sure. Apparently it is common, so there was no need to worry.

Two quick pictures of the face mask-

So... that was my radiation. It didn't hurt, just made me really tired. If anyone has any questions you can ask in the comments section and I will try to answer as best as I can :)

Onward to Chemotherapy.
I will try to keep this section as short as possible as I know the radiation had a lot of reading.
I spoke with Dr. Vandenburg on Tuesday regarding the best options available to me for chemotherapy. I've decided on taking oral chemotherapy at home with the intention of maintaining, if not shrinking the bone, liver and neck mets. I have chosen not to undergo any sort of stronger intravenous therapy. I realize that this is difficult for some people to understand, as they will just want these tricky guys to disappear completely, but my quality of life is just important to me as my length. At this point these mets aren't impairing my quality of life. If I can keep them under control and be able to focus on the things in my life that really matter, I am more than happy with my decision.

I will be undergoing 14 days of oral chemo, followed by 7 days off. This will happen for a total of 3 rounds and then we will evaluate how effective the treatment is.
If after 3 rounds the treatments aren't working, I will consider more drastic options, but for now, I'm happy with being able to take my medications at home and enjoy my friends and family.

As for the drugs that I am on, the side effects shouldn't be nearly as severe as the last chemotherapy I was on (Thank goodness!!!!)
There will possibly be heartburn, diarrhea, and something called hand-foot syndrome which causes the skin on my hands to get red and thin. Apparently I am supposed to put Udderly Smooth Udder Cream on my hands and feet to prevent this. Kind of strange? I could also experience pain or tingling in my hands and feet. I may have issues with mouth sores, so I have to start rinsing my mouth with baking soda/club soda.
Less common side effects include Fever, chills, cough, nausea, vomiting, bruising, chest pain, and red spots. Fingers crossed I don't experience any of that!

I am being put on another drug to help strengthen my bones and reduce any pain associated with the bone mets. It may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain. Less common side effects include change in kidney functioning. I'm starting off at 1 tablet 2x/day and then increase the next week to 2 tablets 2x/day. The pharmacist said that if its too hard on me, then I can take it back down and go up more slowly.

Okay, so that wasn't as short as I had hoped.
Thanks for reading you guys. Your support and love are so amazing. I thank my lucky stars every day that I have such an amazing support system. I can't thank you enough.

Meg xoxo

Thursday, February 18, 2010

OLD Radiation Part 2

This is part 2 of the old radiation blog that I wrote.
I revised it a bit to try to keep it short and sweet.
Fear not, the pictures are less graphic this time ;)
I'm in the process of writing about the radiation treatments that I am currently undergoing, and hoping to get that post up in the next couple days. As far as info regarding my future chemotherapy and whatnot, I won't have any new information on that until I speak with Dr. Vandenburg on Tuesday, Feb 23.
Thank you so much for reading:)
Love you guys!!!

June 15th, 2009
Radiation treatment #1

Somehow on my first day of treatment, I managed to arrive late. As I think I have mentioned about a hundred times before, I HATE being late for things. Upon my arrival, the tech was actually waiting for me at the front desk to take me back to the radiation room. Kind of felt like a total jerk. However, the radiation techs at the London regional cancer clinic are probably the most fabulous people in the world. After walking down a rather long hallway, my tech showed me the change room and told me to sit in a nearby waiting room directly outside the radiation room until I was called in.

The first day of treatments is by far the longest and most tedious. The techs are required to measure and re-measure everything once you are lying on the "bed". As you can see, the actual machine used for the treatments looks quite a bit different that the one they use in the simulation. The techs are pretty proud of the machine that they were using, as it is the newest one in the hospital. State of the art :) That made me feel pretty darn good about it.

As you can see, it swiveled.

I literally spent about 7 hours of my life staring at this picture. No Joke.

After I had been pushed, tugged, moved and rolled into position with my right arm planted above my head, the two techs left. I didn't realized this until much later (when I overheard a doctor telling a resident) but the walls surrounding the treatment room are 6 feet of pure concrete.
Everytime the techs left the room, they would hit the little button pictured below, which lit up the signs beside it.

Once I was properly aligned on the table, the procedure was something like this-
1) machine swiveled down below my field of view on the right side followed by a loud buzzing noise for 30 seconds (yeah, I counted)
2) tech entered the room to ensure I was still aligned, while machine is swiveling to my left side
3) tech leaves and shortly thereafter, another buzzing sound lasting 30 seconds
4) tech comes back in again, checks alignment leaves, machines rotates to directly above me
5) loud 30 second buzz and techs come back in and tell me I'm all done.

I did this 5 days a week for 5 weeks.
By the end of it I was completely exhausted. Looking back, I feel this was mostly due to the fact that it took a solid 2.5 hours of driving everyday. Flat farmland for an hour each way. Flat. Pretty sweet. Haha. I shouldn't complain though. I know that there are many people that drive far further than I did everyday for their treatments :)

This may sound a little strange to some people, but when my treatment were finally over, I was actually a little sad. The techs had basically become friends. I saw them almost as much as I saw my family. We chatted about our lives, about the school course that I was taking at the time, about our respective plans on the weekends, birthdays, everything. On the last day, knowing I would probably never see them again was a pretty big bummer. I can't give them enough credit for how fabulous they were.

The end result of the radiation was not nearly as bad as I had assumed that I was going to be. Here are a few pictures of what my chest looked like after I was finished the radiation. I was very lucky, as I hardly had any reaction to the radiation at all.

That last one was taken by one of the techs during my last days.
The blue covers are were my right arm would sit during the course of the treatment.
As you can see, I was still lacking my hair at that point :)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

OLD Radiation Part 1

This blog was originally written quite some time ago (as you can see by the date below) It's the first of two parts that describes the set up and treatment for my radiation on the right breast. I know I've been promising it for... pretty much ever, so today is my day to get it up :) Hope you enjoy!!

May 26th, 2009 10:00am

Radiation Simulation

Ok... So the good news is that I don't remember all the details about the simulation, so you won't be boring you to tears with facts and junk for the next... oh 10 minutes.
The bad news is that I am going to try to write about everything I do remember. That being said, it is entirely possible that some of the info could have just been imagined in this pretty little head of mine...or I might actually be adding in stuff to make it more interesting for you, the reader (which, now that I think about it, is also good news for you).

Where to begin...

I arrived to my appointment a little late, as traffic in London was horrific and they were just starting construction on the main road. Overall a good start to my day, however, I was going to be heading straight up to the cottage after the simulation, so I didn't much care. (those of you know know how anal I am about being on time know that the previous statement wasn't true).

Anyway, I arrived in one piece, checked in and was guided to a changing room by a very nice woman, we will call Francis. After changing into my gown, I was lead into a room where I came face to face with this-

As you can probably tell, I was to lie on my back, with my right arm up over my head in those little blue and grey cuff like things. The blue foam thing at the bottom of the "bed" was where my legs were to go. Overall, I'd give it a 6 out of 10 on the comfort scale. Not too shabby.

Well, not too shabby until you had been stuck in that position for 30 minutes. That was about the time my hand started to get cold, as the blood was finding the journey to my fingertips rather arduous and it apparently gave up.
After 45 minutes, pretty much my entire right arm was asleep.

The whole time the life was slowly draining out of my fingertips, the techs would come in, measure, move me, measure, move me, measure and walk into the other room only to come back a few minutes later to do it all again. When I was finally in the correct position, I was told not to move. Then the machine started up and made some really loud, funky noises.

When it was finally over, Francis came back in to inform me that now, the tattooing would begin. These would be necessary in order to set me up in the exact same position every time I came in for radiation.


One might think that at a large hospital, they would have a rather sophisticated method of tattooing the radiation dots on the patient. I'm sure you are envisioning the beautiful tattoo gun, shiny and new.

Now, picture a big-ass needle and a container of ink.
Yup, the delicate procedure for my prison tattoo went something like this- 1) Place ink on skin 2) jab skin with needle 3) twist needle, just for fun 4) remove and wipe.
The results look something like this-

Okay, so it wasn't THAT painful. Honestly, my grandmother made it though at 85 years old, it's not that bad.

After the tattooing, I was allowed to leave.
Feeling rather bold, I decided that I wasn't going to wear my head scarf the entire drive up to my cottage. This might not seem like a big deal to most people, but being a 27 year old bald woman, it was a big deal to me.
The reaction was pretty much what I had anticipated, some stared, other acted as if nothing out of the ordinary was occurring. Interesting.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

At least yesterday was a good day...

I've been sitting here for a while, just trying to figure out exactly what to say in this post. I suppose that there isn't really any good way express the news, so I will just come out and do it. I spoke with Dr. Read today regarding the results of my MRI, CTs and bone scan... they weren't ideal.
As it turns out, my breast cancer has also spread to my bones (left hip and shoulder), my liver and into at least 1 lymph node on my neck.
Where does this leave me? Well... our first focus is still on shrinking the tumors in my brain. I will continue to undergo my full brain radiation for 10 sessions (only 7 left!) and then meet with my medical oncologist Dr. Ted Vandenberg on Feb 23, 2010 to discuss chemotherapy options to get rid of the rest of the pesky tumors.

Although speaking with Dr. Read today obviously was difficult, I was still left with quite a bit of hope for the future. As far as the chemo goes, she can't tell me much but, she left me confident that if one doesn't work as effectively as possible, there are other chemo treatments that I can undergo to try to get this thing under control.

There are also other options available to me for the brain mets. Dr. Read informed me that Gamma knife radiosurgery is still an option in the future, but we have to wait a few months to see how effective my current radiation is in terms to shrinking my tumors. (

I have options, and I plan on fighting as long and as hard as humanly possible.
Like I said before, I've got a list, and I'm not stopping until I achieve everything on it. Heck... when that one runs out, I may just start a new one :)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Radiation day 1

Hi all,

I finally got a call from the radiation department this morning at 8am regarding my first appointment. I start today at 12:30pm and will have appointments every day for the next 5. I get the weekend off (yippee for some normal time!) and then will have another 5 days of treatment in a row.

Fingers crossed, I will be finishing up the radiation Feb 19th.

The only bummer about the appointment times is that they can change from day to day. Like... significant changes. Like you think you have to be there the next day at 8am and then they tell you that they changed the appointment to 3pm. Makes keeping life normal a difficult? I suppose that is what I have to learn to live with for the next while though. The un-normal.

As for my test (MRI, CT, Bone scan and blood work) results, I still have no word on them. I will be meeting with Dr. Read on Wednesday and will likely hear what the deal is then.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Life goals... rethought and revitalized

I realize that I have quite a few readers who have never met me, and by default then, don't really know that much about me as a person (other than what can be seen in my lovely graphic pictures, haha).

This past September, I sat down and wrote out some life goals to try to get myself back on track after all of the treatments and delays that I had in the past year.
Some of them are pretty lofty, some of them pretty idealistic, some of them silly, but they were mine. I was proud of them and was seriously making efforts to try to get started on accomplishing them.

Obviously things have changed a little now for me, but I wanted to share my old goals with everyone, just so you have a better understanding of who I am as a person, and what I wanted in my life.

So.... here we go- (Thursday, September 10, 2009)
Life Goals...

1) To hold a Ph.D, I'm not too picky on what it is going to be in. The way I am going though, I think it's bound to be nursing.

2) To learn another language. I've got a head start on Korean and French, I just need to get motivated enough to do it.

3) To master at least one of the following musical instruments - cornet, cello, piano, or guitar.

4) To live in at least 5 different countries - So far I've only got Canada and Korea. I'm assuming that I will have United States in the near future (preferably San Fran, DC, Portland and Maine). I'm thinking somewhere in Europe and in South America?

5) To run a half marathon. I've a lot of training to do though, seeing as the 5km I ran today was far from easy.

6) Spend at least 100 hours volunteering. (Note*** So far I'm up to 40h :) )

7) Master the following- sewing, knitting & crocheting (Note*** on my way with knitting/sewing, kinda sorta)

8) Become part owner of a Bed & Breakfast (with Adam)

9) Travel to 30 countries. I'm at 7 now.

10) Read at least 12 books a year until I die (Textbooks NOT included).

11) Complete 'The Weekend to End Breast Cancer' 60km walk in Toronto

12) Own a little cottage by a lake.

The other night, Asia and I went out on the town in Petrolia (to the local coffee shop that closed at 9pm) and had a really good chat about my new goals.

My new set obviously had to be modified pretty significantly. Unfortunately, doing a lot of travelling/moving outside of Canada is out of the question for obvious insurance reasons. Yes, it's a total bummer, cause there are so many places in the world that I would love to see. However, as I am always trying to find that silver lining, that leaves a LOT of times to see my own country.

New Goals-
1) Take the train across Canada
2) Go to an NHL game (don't really care where, I just want to go)
3) Make Peter take me (and friends)to a Blue Jays game... I don't really have any interest in baseball, but I think it would be fun.
4) Go to the Symphony.
5) Get married (hahaha, um... no pressure Adam)
6) Go to Canada's Wonderland with my friends/family
7) Take a road trip back to Maine
8) Go snowshoeing
9) Go ice skating on the Rideau Canal
10) Get my darn tooth fixed
11) Get some darn shiny nice new glasses
12) I've always wanted to go to Ireland with my father... it's been a dream of mine since I was just a little girl. My father has been, and he loved it. I would love to share this with him while I still can. I don't think I'm ready to let go of this dream yet.

So yeah, that is it so far.
I mean, I will probably revise and revamp the list as time goes on and I find out new information, but this is where it stands at the moment.

I'm pretty happy with the list.
Pretty darn happy.

Oh, and if you are wondering how I will pay for all this without a job, I figure I'll just bust out my "sense of the dramatic" and win the lottery. Haha :)

Just as a little side note, I wanted to mention a little something about my personal facebook page. I've always (with the exception of this blog) been a very private person, and generally kept my facebook for people that I talk to on a regular basis. I've recently had many people try to add me as a friend on facebook, but I would like to keep my personal page personal. Please, please don't be offended or hurt if I haven't added you. There are just some parts of my life that I would prefer to keep to myself. Please believe me when I say I'm really not trying to offend anyone, or hurt anyones feelings.
The support that everyone has shown me is completely overwhelming and strangely unbelievable. Every time life gets a little too heavy, I go and read the beautiful comments on "For the love of Meghan" and they lift my spirits :)
I truly appreciate the words of support more than anyone will ever fathom.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A little laugh to brighten us up

I hope this doesn't offend anyone or anything, but I thought it was really kinda funny.
Yesterday, after leaving the hospital after all my lovely CT scans and such, Asia took my mother and I out for lunch.
Upon completing our meal, the waiter asked if you wanted fortune cookies. I figured that they are always good for a laugh, and was not disappointed.
Upon opening mine, I read "You have a sense of the dramatic and a tendency towards display"
Funny right? right? I had a pretty good chuckle.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

There is still no word as of 6:45 am this morning as to when I will be starting my radiation treatments. I am trying to be as patient as possible, but it still weighs on my mind... I just want to get it started as soon as I possibly can.

I am managing to keep fairly busy with the barrage of appointments that I have to attend. Yesterday I drove down to London with my parents, Adam and Asia to have my brain MRI, and today I'm going back for my chest and abdominal CT scans.
I have two appointments scheduled for Thursday, one with my lawyer regarding a power of attorney and the other with the social worker (mentioned in a recent post?). We will be up again bright and early Friday morning to make the long trek back to London for my bone scan at 9:15.
I suppose the blessing in disguise here is that my steroids wake me up at like 6 am every morning anyway, so early morning appointments aren't as horrific as expected :)

I'm unsure when the results from all of the test will be back, but as I said, I will update when I find out more.

In addition to the MRI yesterday, I made an early morning trip into Sarnia to see my supervisors at the Red Cross and Bluewater Hospital. I had to inform my boss at the Red Cross that, given my situation, I would no longer be able to work for them. She was completely understanding (as one would hope) and informed me that she would keep me in the system in case I would like to come back and finish school in the future. Over the last few days, I've come to the conclusion that working there isn't the right move for me. It isn't that I don't want to, I just think that it is a little more stress on my body and spirit than I can handle at the moment. I spoke with Dr. Read (Radiation Oncologist) about it in our meeting, and she agreed. At the same time though, I feel as though quitting school is just giving this demon that much more control over my life. It's a hard pill to swallow. Informing the hospital in Sarnia that I will be unavailable to cover my volunteer shifts while I am undergoing treatments was hard pill number 2.
Related Posts with Thumbnails