Category Archives: radiation

PET SCAN-I’m Ready!

Do you remember in the early 90’s when “Take Your Daughter to Work Day” became a thing?

Today, you (and the kids) get to come with me to my PET scan and see what it’s all about! First, get to the hospital early and look for parking! (Create a parking spot in the grass on the hill.)

Tripler Army Medical Center
Tripler Army Medical Center-No Parking

Rush to get to the Nuclear Medicine Clinic-then wait!

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Nuclear Medicine Clinic at TAMC

and wait…

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Waiting room fun with the kids

The day prior to the scan: Prep instructions for PET scans. Basically, no carbs, no exercise, no alcohol, no nothing. In my house, we call that a “potato” day because we just sit around and do nothing.

The morning of the PET scan. Nothing but water. Drink it from a fun mug though!

Lucy Mug
Lucy Mug from Jan E.

Fill out all the paperwork!

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Surgeries? Radiation? Chemotherapy? Neulasta?

Check blood sugar! They ask if you’ve been fasting and this will prove it. Numbers must be between 80-200 to proceed. Whew, I passed! (No food or caffeine after midnight!)

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Fasting range should be between 80-200. I passed!

Next up! Radioactive dye injection. The radioactive sugar solution will migrate to the areas of “hyper-metabolic” activity (in other words, seeing something light up is bad!)

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Glucose Solution of Radioactive Dye (note the nice carrying case)

I’ve already been to the chemo room to get my port accessed! I’m Ready!

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Port accessed and ready to go! “I’m ready.”

After the radioactive dye…more waiting…45 minutes for the dye to circulate throughout your system. (My 45 minutes turned into an hour.) 

Finally!

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Fancy new PET scan machine at Tripler

The whole process takes about 3 hours. The actual scan only takes about 25 minutes! Then, off to lunch!

…and wait for results!

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No Evidence of Disease (#NED)

The words that every cancer patient wants to hear-No Evidence of Disease! I was sitting on the exam room table when the nurse came in with the report and flopped it open for me to see. At first, I had no idea what I was seeing, but then, the words jumped off the page-NED!

Radiologist's Report
Radiologist’s Report

A special girl, Morgan, brightened my day with a bouquet of Star Lillies. And yes, I want to keep “filing batter” for a long time.

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“Congrats on your filing batter”-Love Morgan

What’s next for me? Three more chemos to knock out any remaining or developing cancer cells. Then, monthly (and by “monthly” they actually mean every three weeks) chemo for a year. I still have a long haul ahead of me. Blood pressure is too high (from chemo, of course) and platelets keep dipping (from chemo, of course), WBC (White Blood Count) is all over the place, and RBC (Red Blood Count) is dipping into transfusion land.

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Tripler’s Chemo Room

BUT, I am blessed! I feel lucky every day I get into work and am able to do my job and see those students. I’ve been through the ringer-surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, but because of friends like you, my battery is recharged. I can officially say I am a two time cancer survivor!

NED-No Evidence of Disease Movie poster
NED-No Evidence of Disease Movie poster

The Flying Nun

Do you remember The Flying Nun-a TV series in the late 60’s and early 70’s? Along with The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family…and of course Gilligan’s Island, these made up the favorite TV shows of my youth.  My sister-in-law took this picture of me getting set up for radiation and it brought back memories of Sally Field  as Sister Bertille, the nun who could fly. (What you are seeing in this image is when they drape warm sheets all around so that you don’t freeze! They keep this room mighty chilly.)  I promised my friend J. no belly shots, so you don’t get to see that.  I know you’re disappointed.  So, what are the tv shows that bring you back to childhood?

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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

 

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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