And the countdown begins! I had my first radiation appointment today- and have 15 left. When I phrase it that way, at least to me, it just doesn't sound that bad. I'm still feeling very upbeat about everything, and am excited to finally feel like I am making progress in my treatment.
Today was the second day I have been at the hospital this week.
Yesterday consisted of a dental checkup and an all clear to begin treatment, an appointment that consisted of another CAT scan (I believe this is number 5-6 already since the process began), and some remarking of my mask (they mark the mask to line up with laser guides that they use, it makes sure that I am properly aligned with the radiation machine), and a final appointment that consisted of somewhere around 15 x-rays, more remarking of the mask, and finally a tattoo (I'm so totally like a Harley Biker now, with that one spec in the middle of my chest). Amy calls me a giant weenie, but I gotta say that tattoo hurt a lot more than I expected!
The hardest thing about yesterday was how long I had to wear the mask and dental piece for. My standard treatments will only have me in it for about 20 minutes. The first simulation had me in for about 45 minutes. Yesterday I had it in for about an hour and twenty minutes. Straight. No breaks. By the end, I was definitely feeling it.
Yesterday I also began all of the treatments that I am supposed to do to myself as well. I am supposed to stretch my jaw and neck frequently. Apparently one of the side effects if I fail to do this is that I wont be able to open my mouth much anymore unless undergoing another surgery. I also am having to apply gels and lotions to my neck, face and upper chest. They give me something called RadiaGel for now, and will be switching to another product once the pain and burn becomes pronounced. This, theoretically, helps lessen the effects of the burning. The last thing that I have to do is step it up a major amount on my dental work. Some of this is standard, I know, but my dental routine, now and forever, looks like this: Wake up, brush, mouthwash, floss, eat lunch, brush, eat dinner, and before bed do a half hour of floride treatment, brush and bed. I payed attention to how long I spent on my teeth yesterday, and quickly came to the realization that I spent just over an hour caring for them alone. On top of everything else I have to do for just general care of my body during this, no wonder they expect me to be just exhausted by the time I'm finished. Lucky for me, things like the floride treatment can happen while I am doing other things.
The other thing about yesterday that kind of caught me off guard was the lack of modesty that happens in the back end of the cancer ward of a hospital. I felt bad enough, as the mouthpiece that I have to wear makes me belch pretty good. I was embarrassed at first, as with that piece in, there is nothing that I can do to hide it. The doctors, I don't think, even noticed. I figure it must be kind of common. Then, walking into the joint sex locker room and seeing people wandering around nude, I realized that it just becomes a whole different mentality around there. There's nothing to hide, nothing to be embarrassed about- that we are all there for one thing, and that one thing, treatment and healing, becomes the only thing that matters.
Today was my first actual radiation session. I was a little more nervous than I thought I would be, but still not too bad. I decided yesterday not to take the anti-anxiety pills that they gave me to help with this. I'm honestly glad I didn't. There is just no reason for them.
As you can see by the picture, the machine is pretty big. That is the neutron radiation machine. The bed I am on moves, and the floor opens up, so they can actually move the part of the machine apparently 360 degrees to spin around me and give me radiation at the angles that I need it. In my particular case, I think they probably move it only about 160 degrees.
The radiation itself is painless (at least so far). My ears popped a few times- which was the most noticeable effect. Other than that, there were occasional times when I would lay and wonder "do I feel something? No, I'm making that up- wait, there was something... I think..."
Afterwords, I slapped the RadiaGel on myself, and Beth (my mother-in-law) had lunch. As I type this, which is about 2-3 hours after the radiation had ended, I can tell that something on that side of my face isn't quite the same. I can't even say it's bad yet, just different. maybe a bit warmer and something else, I just don't know what to call it. Irritated sounds too harsh, but for lack of a better term, that's what I must call it. It feels about the same as when you where a shirt with a collar that just won't sit right, and your neck keeps rubbing against it.
I'm glad day one is over though. I feel so much more prepared knowing exactly what to expect. I know the worse side effects are coming quickly, but I'm okay with that. At least for now.