Hi! Today I had my first dose of whole brain radiation. Like the Gamma Knife procedure, it was largely anticlimatic. The process of preparing for the radiation is far more interesting.
The most important thing when doing radiation is that they hit the right spots every time they do it. For Gamma Knife, they use a metal cage to lock my head in place. With whole brain radiation, they do things a little differently. They use a head mold instead. I had expected a head mold to be a big styrofoam box shaped to fit my head. I was way off the mark. The head mold is actually a mesh "sock" (for lack of a better term) that fits tightly around my head; think of a robber wearing a stocking over his face. The mesh is made of a material that I would describe as similar to the fiberglass tape they use to create arm and leg casts these days. The mesh itself has big holes in it; they are, in fact, almost the same size and shape as the holes in the metal guards that keep leaves out of my gutters in the fall. When they put this mesh sock on my head, it felt like a hot towel. The radiation therapists pressed it in around my eyes and pulled it out around my nose so that it conformed to my face. The only place it didn't conform to my face is the back, which they pull straight down to the table to lock into place. They left the sock in place until it hardened -- 15 minutes or so. When they finally slid my head out of the sock that first time, they were left with a rigid mold shaped like a box on one side (the back) and my face on the other (the front).
Today, when I went for my first dose of radiation, they took me into the radiation room. It looks very similar to the rooms where I have CT and MRI scans. They had me lay on a table, and then slid the head mold over my face and locked it in place. When the head mold is locked in place, I can breathe and talk and even open my eyes a little bit. But I cannot turn or lift my head. As this was the first dose, they took several x-rays to verify that my head was aligned correctly and then they did the radiation. The radiation laser (or whatever it's called) first zaps one side (left or right) of my head and then rotates to zap the other. They told me the radiation treatment would be brief. That was an understatement. I'd guess it took less than two minutes. And then it was over . . . until tomorrow. I will have radiation every weekday for three weeks, always at 2:00 pm.
I also received my prescription for Temodar today. I will take my first dose tomorrow. This is supposed to be a relatively low-dose chemotherapy treatment so hopefully the side effects will be minor. The doctor gave me a prescription for Zofran, an antinausea medication. It would be nice if I didn't need it. The other likely side effects of radiation and Temodar are fatigue and hair loss. The radiation actually burns the skin, and I'm supposed to avoid sunlight if possible. Don't be surprised if you see me wearing a skull cap sometime soon. Or maybe a pirate bandana. Jack would like that!