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


Randy and Pam Warner said...

Meghan - thanks so much for the info. One thing that those of us out here in the support system need is details details details.

Your post today certainly helped with that. So today we sat on the curb in Tucson as one of the worlds longest non-motorized parades passed by (The Tucson Rodeo Parade.) A vendor across the street had an assortment of pink cowboy hats and we thought--we should get one for Meghan...

Little did we know you were having daily shootout/gunfight sessions while going through your radiation treatments. Ha!

Meanwhile during the almost two hour parade, we met a very nice woman who is a kindergarten teacher in a little town of Green Valley. We shared your story with her and gave her one of our Roadrunner Chronicles contact cards.

She sent us an email and promised that the members of the Green Valley Baptist Church will be regularly bringing you before the Throne of Grace as they pray for you.

Your Support Team continues to grow. As we pray that the tumors shrink!

Pam and Randy

Tim said...

I'm really glad to hear that you're doing the oral chemo. ...not that I know anything about it, but it sure sounds better! Thanks for the update. H'ok, hope to see you soon!

Love, Tim

PS Hello Adam

Opposcity said...

hi meghan, i saw this post via google alerts this morning. (i work for tomo, the company behind the radiation therapy machine.) having read through your blog, i just wanted to thank you for so beautifully sharing your story -- and to let you know I'm thinking of/pulling for you here in wisconsin.

sincerely, - kevin

Lallen said...

Udderly Smooth Udder Cream is great! If it is good enough for Shania Twaiin to use on her face, it must be good :)

Anonymous said...

i know how you can thank some of us......rather one of scrabble with me.

you know who this is.

Mae said...

Hi Guys!

1) Mr. & Mrs. Warner...the cowboy hat thing is hilarious! Somehow on the same page even though we are so far away :)
I will gladly accept every single prayer sent up! :) Please thank Green Valley Baptist Church for me!

2)TIM! The chemo is better so far, keeping my finger crossed!!
I'm so excited to see you guys!

3) Kevin, thank you so much for reading! Your warm thoughts are so greatly appreciated. I hope I didn't muddle the description of the Tomo procedure too bad :) Haha
Keep doing what you are doing! You make the world a better place for people like me!!

4)Lisa, she does??? hummmm... maybe I should consider the same. It's sooo dry right now.

5) JOANNA... if you are lucky, I will play. Eventually. Like... at the cottage.

Tanya said...

Hi Megan!

I found your blog via Jordin Green's FB link to your FB page.

I've read your entire blog from the beginning until now.

I am amazed by your strength and perseverance. You are an amazingly strong woman and I pray that you kick this cancer to where it belongs!

I will keep you in my prayers!

I'm a nursing student in BC, taking the LPN (RPN in Ont.) I was talking with one of my instructors the other day about my husband's canker sores (not that you needed to know that) and she said that there is a great mouthwash out there for them, but that its geared towards chemotherapy patients, its called Mohammad's Mouthwash. You mentioned the mouth rinses that you were starting to do...and that you may get sores in your mouth, so I just thought that I'd mention that to you. She says that it works great!

Ok, I am long winded. Keep your spirits seem like such a fun person. I look forward to your updates!

Take care,
Tanya Juneau,
Terrace, BC

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