health: commence le rayonnement!
If you want the short version, I tweeted it last Friday: Very good news from the doctor.
That’s it, really. Not most excellent news or 2010 sucks* news, but very good. Last Friday I went in for the results of my scans and biopsy and the doctor told me that everything was clear. The cancer has not spread anywhere else in my system and appears localized to the lumps on my forehead. Given that I had no other health complaints and remained asymptomatic, this wasn’t really a surprise to the doctor or myself. Because it was localized, they’ll set me up for a regimen of radiation therapy aimed just at the affected areas, so no chemotherapy and the appointments should be short, just weekly for about 5-6 weeks. Based on all they know**, there is a more than 90% chance that it will never return after the radiation therapy.
Kimberley was with me, thankfully, and it was noticed by the staff. “You’re not Stephanie!” was remarked by everyone we saw for my first appointment. I told them that I have a huge entourage and they joked that they’ll need more chairs in the exam rooms in future. I don’t know that I’ll get used to them weighing me, and poking & prodding at me every time I come in, but they have to make sure that I’m not manifesting any indicators of a more serious case. My hope is that they were true to their words and that after these treatments, I’ll only need an annual checkup. Not that I mind going in regularly to hear good news, but those $30 co-pays are going to cut into my me money! 😉
And I’m glad it was good news. Even if I was suspecting it, I was aware of the chance that it would be bad news… and I wasn’t really prepared for that. Neither was Kimberley, it turns out, but that’s what friends*** are there for. So after smiles all-round and a few moments between appointments to notify friends and social media acquaintances we headed to the ground floor to Radiation Oncology to see the next doctor about checking in and setting up my appointments. This meant another round of new patient forms–which I am growing to hate, but it’s all for a good cause: ME. They also took my photo for identification. The nurse was having some trouble working the camera, which I helped her with and joked that if she needed photos of me, I could have some sent.
After being weighed, measured, pressured, etc. and going through the part of the exercise where they go over the form you just filled out and ask you to confirm the stuff you just wrote down… they eventually found my doctor.**** He checked out my chart, told us that this is very rare** but confirmed that due to there being no evidence of systemic involvement that it would just be localized radiation therapy. He made the dubious claim that it’s all outpatient and should take no more than 20 minutes per visit–Kimberley and I gave each other a “yeah, right” look. I got a manual that explained what I might do to prepare and what I might experience as the treatment progresses–in my case, it will likely feel like sunburn on my forehead and fatigue. He assured us that since this radiation doesn’t penetrate beyond the treated area, that there’s little chance my frontal lobe will be affected… so no Fred Flinstone-like personality changes for me. 🙁 Oh and there may be hair loss. Displaying a very tanned, but also very bald head, the doctor said he had little sympathy for me on that one.
So that they don’t have to make any ink marks on my face/head, I’m going to get a mask molded like the one above to help keep my head motionless during the treatments and to help them focus the radiation each time. I assumed the “are you claustrophobic” referred only to more MRI/PET/CT scans, but now I’m hoping this doesn’t trigger anything. I’m not really claustrophobic when I’m sure that I can be set free, but you never know! I go in for that and treatment planning tomorrow afternoon in case anyone’s interested in being another member of urb’s people, but I don’t think I’ll need anyone around this time. I’m pretty pleased that they believe it will only take 5 or 6 weeks of therapy to clear it up. It means I may not have the greatest of summers*, but better that I do what I can to get it taken care of.
One thing I can’t stress enough is the importance of having someone with you when you know that you may hear potentially disturbing news about your personal health. The moral support is great, but more importantly that person can write things down for you. A majority of the details in this entry are thanks to Kimberley taking notes during both of my appointments. Without them, I would have remembered important stuff, but not everything. Anyone that works in a modern office recognizes the importance of having things in print/e-mail to refer back to, but doctors are very good at talking, not putting things down on paper. You may not be in the right frame of mind to recall everything they said, but having a friend or family member (or even a co-worker good at taking notes) with a slightly clearer head makes a big difference. So much love to her and Stephanie for being, among other things, my steno pool.
So, I’m still doing OK and kinda hoping that all this radiation around my brain will make me develop superpowers. Maybe I’m not going to have the best time of it for the next month or so, but if nothing else this has given me plenty to write about! Now I just look forward to calling myself a cancer survivor… since my form of it is so rare** perhaps I’ll form a 5/10k for it! I’ve already decided that my “beat cancer” present should be a new iPad, so a little charity in that direction wouldn’t be such a bad thing.*****
* Which frankly, for me, it does. I have been through too much shit this year and would like to see 2010 put in the ground.
** If I am told by one more medical person that this is very rare, I believe I shall scream in their face. Count on it.
*** Or as I say in Stephanie and Kimberley’s cases, “practically family”.
**** While we were in the waiting room, I swear they paged him at least 5 or 6 times trying to locate him.
***** I’m serious, don’t be surprised if you see a PayPal donate button on this blog in the next month. It’s not like most of y’all got me anything for my birthday last year!†
† I kid, I kid… maybe.