Radiation Treatment – 1/5

Today was the start of radiation therapy, the first of a five day schedule. I’m not sure if I’ll post something every day as the treatments are all identical, but we’ll see what comes to mind over the next few days.

In and out in under 30 minutes! These guys run a tight ship and they were very friendly and nice explaining everything that would take place in advance. Things like when the machine and/or table would move, what sounds it would make and the fact that I’d feel absolutely nothing while it was happening.

I arrive and get changed into the standard hospital attire for getting x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, PET scans etc. all of which I’ve had several of over the last 2 years. A few minutes in the waiting room and then they usher me into the therapy room and introduce me to the team, and the machine.

The lights were up for this photo but when I arrive it’s dim mood lighting, a fairly relaxing vibe. You hop up on the table, which is draped with sheets ( not naked like in the photo ) and position your arms out of the way over your head in the purple-looking supports. They use a laser alignment system to line me up with the dot markings previously applied to the sides of my chest. Then they all leave the room. Hmmmmm….

The first thing that happens is a couple of arms come out of the machine and take an x-ray. The operators then use this to make some further refinements to my positioning by remotely adjusting the table. Then the process starts and the head of the machine comes closer and rotates around me. In about 5 minutes after entering the treatment room it’s all over. A little hard to describe but to get an idea, check out this video that one of the staff recommended when I was taking my photo.

My Radiation Treatment from Thomas Ashley on Vimeo.

The person in the video is receiving radiation to his head whereas mine is to the chest and no, I didn’t have to wear any sort of protective device on my chest.

As with all medical procedures they tell you about all the things that can happen, the “side-effects”. In general they are supposed to be quite minimal compared to chemotherapy. Things like skin irritation, think fairly significant sunburn. Coughing from irritating the lung because the tumor is close to the lung, difficulty swallowing again from irritating the esophagus, as its close by too. The radiation beam is focused and targeting the tumor but, there is some spill over. For the super techie my treatment is Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT).

Some fairly intense prayer while the process is taking place as so much is out of my control, actually everything about the treatment beyond saying “yes” or “no” is outside my control but God has got this, guiding the staff and the machine to do it’s job without damaging the rest of me. Thanks for all the messages of encouragement, prayer and support as we go through this last part of the journey.

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