For the next 5 weeks I get to get a head start on revealing my superpowers. I'm getting a daily dose of computer-targeted, carefully dosed and focused radiation treatments. The idea is to make sure that any little specks of evil left will be decimated by....SCIENCE! (*whoosh!*)
Where I live, in the lower level of the cancer clinic, there is a radiation therapy centre, with 3 radiation wards. I am in the hands of the lucky people in the "Galaxy" treatment ward. 
The sign the staff made for the ward. It has a little dangly moon. I love these people!

Everyone there has been incredibly kind and helpful and gotten me started on this trek to the end of my (yay!!) treatment. I have 25 treatments in total and with any luck I shouldn't have too many side effects to deal with. Mainly you get (surprise surprise) a sunburn and tiredness. After chemo I'm thinking things will be pretty decent overall to deal with...

I know when I wanted to know more about my radiation therapy I found there wasn't a lot of information about just what happened while you had it done, so I thought I'd write a bit about it and post a picture or two, in the hopes that someone might find this before their treatment and help them know more about what they were in for and help them be calm about what was to come (hello!). Ready freddy? OK.

Once you're healed up from your chemo and surgery (or maybe, lucky you, there wasn't chemo), a few weeks before you have your treatments start, the radiologist will take a CT scan of your chest and head with you lying on your back with your hands up above your head so they can look at where your lymph nodes hang out under your arms. If you're like me and you had your nodes removed, they will be zapping there as well as your chest. To make sure they don't hit other areas that they don't want to with radiation they use the  CT images to map out your treatments with a computer. They also gave me a few dot tattoos to use as markers for treatment. I have one under each arm on my side in line with my brastrap and one right between my breasts  (OK...breast...I had a mastectomy). Don't panic when they say tattoo-I did...I didn't know they were happening, and after everything else I was a bit miffed at yet more pokes and prods...but really it's all good. The tattoos look like a little mole or freckle. And they need them to give you the best treatment possible, so they have to be done.

When you go in to get your treatment you'll put on a sexy hospital shirt and meet your awesome team. For your first treatment they will spend extra time to get everything mapped out for the rest of your treatments. I was told to lie down on the bed of this big machine, with my chest below the big round part (and if you're lucky, there'll be pictures of cute men and animals taped to the unit to look at while you're down there like where I am treated...! ). You put your arms above your head and hold onto the white posts with your hands so you can be comfy and stable.
the Galaxy machine

To start it all they used my lovely tattoo dots to line me up in an exact position, with the dots matching up to laser cross hairs from the machine that are projected onto you. Then, they took an X-ray to make sure I was in position and all my inner bits are in precise position like the computer mapping so that the only parts that get zapped are the parts they are aiming for.  When they're happy with everything, they give you one final tattoo dot on the top of the area of where your tumour/breast used to be and finally with all that they are able to start up their machine for this and all of the rest of your treatments. (and yep -all these dots would be covered by a bikini top, so honest, it's all good).

The treatment itself is easy peasy -Once you're placed into position, all you need to do is lie very still, try and not move and let the machine spin around you and zap you a few times from precise angles (The machine makes quiet science fiction whirring's tweedley cool for a science geek like me!). The nice thing is that the treatment itself from start to finish takes about 10-15 minutes. The computer can precisely focus and limit the beam to where it needs to go and then, you're done! Then you get your appointment for the next day and go do something awesome until tomorrow.

As far as what to do to help with skin redness? Well, I've been told to put Glaxall Base lotion (a simple lotion with vitamin E and no other additives) on twice a day in the areas treated. Sadly, It smells like old people (bleh) but it is supposed to help a lot. Apparently coconut oil is a good thing too, but I'll save that for if I need more oomph and listen to my doc for now and not put anything else on the area. There are other prescription creams I could be given to try if I am one of the lucky people who get a more serious sun burn reaction, but for now I can stick to the sexy old lady lotion. I will also continue to try to get in some activity every day to help the coming fatigue and I have to continue the shoulder and arm stretches I was given as a part of mastectomy recovery to ensure that my shoulder heals up as best as it can while being zapped daily. I meet my radiologist once a week if there are any issues, and once I'm done I have more strengthening exercises with weights to start up. Having only had 4 treatments so far I can't say just how irritated my skin will get (everyone is different) but for now, after chemo, this shiz is a breeze. I know I'll get tired, but I can't believe that by mid-July I'll be done this. I'll get to walk down the hall at the cancer centre and ring that glorious brass bell and declare that I am DONE my treatments!!

I can't wait!


azusmom said...

That's gonna be a great day!!!!

Yum Yucky said...

Oooo. the Galaxy Machine. You sure that thing doesn't to time warp?