Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Gotta keep me radiated.

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!


Kara Smith said...

I hate to say great to hear what is going on with you Jeff, but I am amazed at your ability to put what is happening to you in "layman's terms".

For those who have never dealt with cancer through a relative or close friend or ourself, you set out what happens like it is just an everyday occurence.

Thank you for your boldness in sharing with us. Please keep us informed of your progress in your treatment.

I continue my daily prayers for a complete recovery.

Kara Smith

Katie Clancy said...

Glad to hear Day #1 sounded like a breeze, and subsequent days may be even shorter since you had the "fitting" of the sock today. I agree with Kara's post today - that your descriptions of everything are so easy to understand and make it easier for all of us to "join" in your fight even though we're miles away. You're opening a door for us to reach in and try to help in whatever small way we can, and I for one appreciate it. So many of us just don't know what to do to help. Leave it to you to "help us help you" to borrow a line from Jerry McGuire.

As for losing your hair, maybe you can look into a transplant from your chest!

Continued best wishes, prayers and positive thoughts from out West. Thanks again for the update. Love Katie and Ed

TAMARA said...

Hi!, Jeff

My name is Tamara Shurland. I have worked with Pat and Tracy as a dancer on the Diamond and Emerald Princess. My family and I would like to send you warm wishes , for a speedy recovery. Here is a little prayer we have said for you.

I send my healing prayer to the depths of Jeff being and every atom of his body accepts it and responds, Jeff is cleansed purified and made new. This I decree in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

May god bless you and your beautiful family.

gardiner said...

Jeff - Thanks for the update. Great as always to hear from you. We are thinking of you each day. You continue to inspire us all. Talk to you soon. Love, Brendan and Meaghen

michelle wait said...

Hey Jeff! It just amazes me how little time it takes to complete these treatments...Something so advanced can be done so quickly. That's great to know that it won't take up your whole day. Hope therapy with your leg is coming along. The way you got around this weekend really surprised me. You have such awesome strength and will! I love you so much and had a great time with you in Houston. Seriously, when is Britney gonna call us for some counseling?

michael said...

Hey Jeff i am glad to hear that the radiation doesn't take that long. Now you have more time to enjoy the day. I hope that your therapy is going along great. I hope that you have a good weekend. If you have time you'll have to try and catch some of the USC Husker game.

Terri said...

Or jeff you could walk around with a semi-see through scarf like Michael Jackson's kid's do. That wouldn't be creeepy or anything. :)
I'm glad that you get to be home while all of this is going on. Thanks for giving us the details of all your treatments, it is very interesting. I hope and pray that all goes well and continues to go well.
Love, Terri