Thursday, July 25, 2013

SBRT begins today - or does it?

This is not a real beach

I went in for my first SBRT radiation treatment today.

By today I mean this morning.

By this morning, I mean too effing g-d early.

I'd been told that they would do a dry run, and then if all went well, move on to the actual radiation.

Apparently, all didn't go well.   After the first dry run they took me aside and told me there was an issue. The problem seemed to be the fact that I was still breathing. I was just minding my own business, taking in oxygen, the way living people do.  That caused some distressing movement of my liver. Hey, if they wanted me not to breathe for this procedure, they should have waited a year or so, but for now, they have to figure out a way to live with my annoying habit.

They told me that the fiducials were moving up and down and asked me if I was nervous. My truthful answer was no, because for some reason, these procedures never make me nervous.  I find them too interesting, even when done on me, to get scared.  And as you know, I'm too ADD to think ahead to any potential problems.   So my fiducial movement was not caused by fear.

I had herceptin yesterday, which causes a lot of nasal drip as I have described before and my guess is I was probably swallowing and trying to manage that too much. So when I went back to try again, I let whatever was flowing flow, and I also pretended that my liver was pinned to the table and reminded myself to only use my lungs to breathe.  Shallow in, shallow out, no moving the stomach.  Considering they had my midsection pinned down by a giant clamp screw, I'm not sure how I moved it in the first place.

They said it was much better the second time around, but still didn't give me radiation. The dosimetrist has to make adjustments.  Maybe the fact that I've lost weight again also plays a role in that, but I don't know.  I have no clue what they base the radiation dose upon, but whatever it is, I'm glad they are careful, and I now wait until tomorrow.

It has become crystal clear that most people fantasize about lying on a beach as their "happy place."  I have yet to be in a hospital scan room or nuclear imaging center where there weren't scenes of beaches on the ceilings and walls. Usually, a few of the ceiling light tiles have been replaced with photos of the undersides of palm trees, so you can imagine that you are lying on a lounge chair with an umbrella drink, looking up at the trees rather than having radiation injected into your body to track your LVF. Sometimes the walls, too, have scenes of beaches although I've often wondered why since lying on your back, there is no way to see them. There are never photos of a forest, or a desert, or a meadow.  It's always a beach.

I suppose medical professionals (or more likely designers) think that when somebody is sticking needles in your liver and digging around in there, causing exquisite agony, all you need for comfort is to look over and see a photo of the ocean.

For the record?  An injection of dilaudid would be better.

My radiation room is no exception - there is a large photo of a lovely aquamarine sea;  large rocks jutting out from the tranquil water.  It was serene and lovely, until you imagine talking a walk out to that rock to bask in the warm Caribbean waters, when suddenly a hurricane comes up. There you are, stuck on this hard boulder, cold waves battering you, dark clouds above, lightening  flashing through the sky and striking the water, high tide rising around your feet - your shins - your waist - as the rock gets more and more slippery and sharks circle hungrily beneath, and you with no way to get back to the safety and comfort of your radiation machine.

Not that I imagined that.

While I don't know what the actual radiation is like, since it looks and feels invisible I don't expect it'll be much different from the dry run.  I was lying on a table, on that plastic bag made just for me, filled with the rock-hard beads that had conformed to my body, arms over my head holding on to posts, belly exposed as techs pushed and pulled and adjusted.   They found my tats and marked me up with little X's, put the medieval screw type device on my stomach as a reminder not to breathe (ha ha), red lights on the wall flashed, green lasers shone on my belly,  and the machines started up to dance and whirl around me.

The noise started slow and built to a whine, exactly like a jet engine or an LG Direct Drive Washing Machine.

So, tomorrow, for 100% sure,  I go get my liver sterilized. I hope it works as well as my washer, with fewer side effects. Wrinkled clothes are bad enough, I don't need vomit, jaundice and ascites too.


  1. I only got the sterile rooms! NO beaches or sunsets or gently crashing waves. Huh. Well, there was one screen saver of palm trees and that didn't really work out so well for me, so I suppose I should be happy. Best of luck to you tomorrow. I hope it a) goes and b) goes quickly.

  2. Hope all goes well tomorrow. Margaret

  3. They could at least put a crossword puzzle or word find up there??? Best of luck tomorrow!!

  4. I, too, only got plain sterile rooms.
    I did talk the techs into playing CDs for me, but then the CD player broke about the third week.
    Hope all goes well tomorrow. Prayers for you.

  5. How is it that you can make me laugh when you are going through such a terrible time? Your descriptions are spot on. Best wishes for today's treatment. Peace, hugs & unicorns for your weekend.

  6. A word find! That would be more fun. I brought my own music but they have satellite radio playing so I couldn't use it. I will share the playlist though.

    Today I got the rays and all is well so far. The toughest part of the whole experience was finding a place to park.

  7. I think palm trees are the California version. My Colorado treatment room had pictures of a rose garden with bright pink flowers and a brick path. I used to count the bricks for want of something else to do while being refrigerated and nuked simultaneously. Do you get music during treatment? For one pathetic stretch of my radiation, they played "It's A Wonderful World" with Louis Armstrong belting away about: "trees of green, red roses too I see them bloom, for me and you And I think to myself What a wonderful world." And now, whenever I hear that song, I get really gloomy. Let's just hope that palm trees stay free of that association for you.

  8. in Hershey, PA we look up at the solar system and little aliens while being burned alive. I think I would like the beach thing more, and the word search idea is the coolest! Thanks, Ann, for once again making me smile about the four letter word with six letters -cancer. Wishing you few side effects and may the treatments work well to kick this cancer's a--.

  9. Hi Ann,
    I know what you mean about those images in procedure rooms. At my recent bone scan (turned out okay), I gazed at an overhead scene that looked like something from Finding Nemo. Cute, but also sort of irritating...

    Sounds like you had tx on Friday. Hope the weekend went well. Thanks for another terrific post. Your candor, wit and humor are priceless.

  10. Everything will be fine soon.. just take care.


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