Halfway There-Radiation pt. 2

A quiz:

1. What’s the geographic center of the US?

2.  If I tunnel through the earth, where would I be?

3.  Side effects from 13 radiation treatments?

4.  Time to travel to UH from Aloha stadium in traffic?

5. Who said, “Every great mistake has a halfway moment, a split second when it can be recalled and perhaps remedied”?

6. Who sings the lyrics, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end”?

Today marks crossing the halfway point of radiation! Side effects are mostly mild nausea and fatigue.  When radiation ends, chemo begins.  This patient is less than patient.  Still have side effects from the surgical incision that keep cropping up. My fascia is not cooperating the healing process.  Evidently, it has never had me as a teacher before.  “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.” 

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Answers:

1.  Lebanon, KS

2. check the map tunneling tool

3.  nausea and fatigue

4. 45 minutes on average

5. Pearl S. Buck

6. Closing Time by Semisonic

 

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Endurance

I always go back to distance running when I think about my cancer journey.  A long, long time ago, I ran track, and then for a time in my 20’s I tried/and successfully completed a triathlon.  The route ahead of me is arduous and somewhat reminiscent of my younger training days.  I have a total of 25 radiation treatments that will launch immediately into 4 months of chemotherapy (with a few weeks off for good behavior in July).  So, what does it take to do an endurance event?  First, the right state of mind.  When my children were little I would read them a book called Those Can-Do Pigs.  The message of the book is that there nothing that is impossible!  When I teach Physics, I tell my students that we have so much information that it is almost impossible to cover it in our course, but that it can be done one step at a time.  I tell them  that we will eat that elephant one bite at a time….and we do (Refer to the man who ate an airplane). Your belief in your ability to finish is key!  If you think you can’t, you can’t.

According to my daughter’s 1500 meter track coach, Coach Jimmy, you need to set the pace right off the blocks.  As I am 8 radiation treatments into 25, I can say √…to that.  My side effects at this point are some fatigue and nausea, similar to training days of the past but nothing unmanageable.  In a cancer race….good nutrition, rest, and exercise are all part of the training process.  Sounds easy, but not always so. It also helps to have some motivational quotes and faith to bolster your race. The hardest part in a triathlon (for me) was coming off the bike and then running.  I love this quote…”Running after riding a bike is different from running on fresh legs. Prior activity makes you feel heavy-legged and uncoordinated when you start running.”   My guess, and it is a guess at this point, that chemo directly after radiation is harder than just going directly at it.  I have a bonus in that my doctors and chemo nurses are amazing!  Plus, this is not my first time in the cancer race.  Race experience in both traithlons and chemotherapy is a bonus.  Just like in traithlons, it pays to have a race strategy!  I am pretty sure Coach Jimmy also said to end strong!  That’s the plan!

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Ten things you didn’t know about Radiation Oncology pt. 1

This week began my journey into radiation.  In 2012, I had 16 rounds of chemotherapy (Carboplatin and Taxol) to “cure” the first round of Ovarian Cancer, but I am at it again.  Four weeks ago I had surgery to remove a recurrence of Ovarian Cancer in a Periaortic lymph node (let me Google that for you-Periaortic ) My doctor feels like the radiation is important because of this lymph node’s proximity to major vascular networks and would make for tricky future surgery if any cells remained.  Following this, I’ll jump back into some more chemo (my old friend).  The radiation part of this is the new aspect.  Here are ten things I didn’t know before I started.  (As I progress, I’ll give you “the rest of the story”)

1.  Radiation uses high doses of radiation energy to kill rapidly dividing cells (cancer cells)! My dosage is 180 Centigrays per day.  Total radiation dosage will be 4500 Centrigrays. (Rads are out-Centigrays are in) I feel like I am becoming a super hero ala Spider Man with each beam of energy from the linear accelerator! Just so you know, it doesn’t hurt while they do it!

2.  Every area radiated has its own list of side effects  I assumed radiation was radiation….not so. Preparation is also different for different areas.  One of the most important lessons I have already learned is that radiation is different for different people!  You may have an easy or tough time of it.  Listen to other people’s experiences, but you are unique!!

3.  Every radiation patient is unique!  You get your own “simulation” prior to the initial radiation, so that doctors make a plan unique to you.  You will receive individual tattoos-yes, permanent-that will mark where the machine will be aligned.  I received 3 and each is the size of a Sharpie point). As you begin radiation, preparation and dosage will vary.

4.  There is never ever parking in the “reserved” radiation spots…ever.

5. You should let the folks know if you have any side effects …they need to know!  Evidently, there is an expectation of when side effects might occur, so if it happens too early…they should be informed.

6.  The actual time of being zapped is only a couple of minutes.  It takes a lot longer to get changed, get situated in the machine, align the marks and get set.  My machine makes two compete arcs around my body.

7.  This one is just for someone that asked me…Chemotherapy (for me) was infused through an IV over a period of several hours.  Chemotherapy is systemic and Radiation is targeted.

8.  You can still exercise while you get radiation, and chemotherapy too.  Exercise is one of the great gifts to healing our bodies. Come on, if I can exercise, surely you can do it too! For me, prayer is the other gift!

9.  Same thing for handicapped parking….don’t count on it.

10.  Water, water, water.  This, along with trying to eat healthy, are also critical during treatment.  Plus, my sources inform me that Diet Coke does not count as water.  Drink it up!

Photo below is the linear accelerator!

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The Pink Hospital

Yesterday marked my 45th check in to Tripler Army Medical Center (TAMC) on Foursquare.  Surprisingly, I am not actually the mayor.  Plenty of folks are in far dire circumstances than I am, and every time I go there, all the handicapped spots are full.    My weekly trips to TAMC do feel somewhat like an arranged marriage.  I didn’t really want it, but parts of it seems to be working out better than expected.  I have heard other complain about military care, but in my case it is quite the opposite.  Two successful cancer surgeries, and now radiation with state of the art machines.     I have been blessed by wonderful doctors and nurses throughout this journey who truly care.  I can tell you that a civilian doctor has never given me their cell phone number (in case of emergencies)  I can’t imagine another place that could care for me so completely. Yesterday was a double whammy of getting a small part of my ear removed in a biopsy (skin cancer will have to get in line behind ovarian cancer) and a visit to the surgeon to check on fascia pain.  The doctor seems to think the fascia is fighting back.  Clearly, the fascia doesn’t know me well enough. I look forward to the time when a weekly hospital visit is not the norm, but for the time being. this is the way of things.

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