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I had my appointment today with the radiation oncologist. The purpose of the appointment was for him to confirm my surgery plans, as recommended by Dr. Turk, my oncology surgeon, and also to have my new patient consultation for my radiation treatment, which will follow surgery. The appointment went good but lasted much longer than I expected. My mom came with me. We learned a few things, but nothing too surprising.
The biggest thing we learned was that the MRI scan I had yesterday only detects “tumor masses”, not “cancer cells” so while the tumor masses are gone and the chemo treatment was considered a “complete response”, we won’t know if I’m “cancer free” until after surgery when they have the pathology results back. Yesterday’s news was still very good though and they’re expecting the pathology report to come back the same.
We also asked some questions about whether my MRI results change anything for surgery or radiation. We learned it did not. I thought maybe if the tumors were gone, what did they need to remove? In a lumpectomy, they’ll take out a certain tissue margin around where the titanium clips were inserted in the original tumors. This is mainly to catch any remaining cancer cells that weren’t detected on the MRI and to reduce the risk for recurrence. The reasons are the same for the radiation – to prevent recurrence and to kill any remaining cells outside the margins they removed during surgery.
Radiation will be scheduled for 3-5 weeks following surgery and will be every day for 6 1/2 weeks. Each appointment will last about 15 minutes, with approximately 5 minutes for each radiation blast (for lack of a better word). It’s basically like an x-ray and doesn’t hurt at all. The side effects won’t show up until about half way through the 6 1/2 week treatment and will include slight reddening of the skin (like a sun burn), fatigue, and longer term, internal scarring. He said I’ll go in for another appointment after my surgery and before the radiation treatment begins to set my radiation “plan”. I will have a CT scan at this time. It won’t be a diagnostic, full body scan like I had when I was first diagnosed, but it’s the same machine. The CT scan this time will be for radiation planning purposes in helping calibrate the radiation machine for my body (where they’ll point the x-rays, etc.) and will only take pictures of the radiation area, not my full body. He said because of the lymph node involvement and the size of the original tumor area, there will be some other areas that are affected internally by the radiation. For example, he said there will be a small area of my lung that will become scarred as a result of being in the radiation x-ray area. He said it wasn’t a big deal though and was a very small area anyway.
Hmmmm, well I think that’s about it for today. Tomorrow will mark the end of phase one, chemo. Here are some interesting milestones I’ve tackled along the way (as of the end of day tomorrow):
1. 26 doctor appointments
2. 6 chemo cycles
3. 16 Herceptin treatments
4. 19 IV sticks
5. $165,000 in insurance claims
6. $5,000 spent out of pocket (medical exps only; not including the Chemo Eve presents to myself, etc.)
7. 5 minutes of Dr. Oz XM radio air time
8. 7 wiggies purchased (5 worn)
9. 2 of my pictures on the set of Oprah’s Dr. Oz tribute show and 2 Oprah tickets for a different show
10. 1 new puppy
11. 1 new car
12. 6 Chemo Eve presents (to myself)
13. 25 chemo popsicles
14. 150,000 hairs lost (resulting in about $1,000 saved from the hair salon)
15. 92 shaves/shampoos/conditions/drys/stylings avoided (that’s about 29.9 hours of getting ready time!!)
16. 47 hours hooked up to IVs
17. 1,040 miles driven
18. and finally, 3 tumors dissolved!!!!!
That was fun. My life in numbers.