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Brain Radiation Treatments Begin

Gaylene's Lung Cancer Journal


Updated February 18, 2009

Brain Radiation Treatments Begin

Head mold for brain radiation treatments

Photo © Gaylene
July 8, 2007: I'm finally feeling much better. As long as I keep a little food in my stomach, the nausea is minimal. Tomorrow morning I'm going to Nebraska for a few days with my cousin to visit another cousin. Because both my red and white cells are low, I checked with my doctors about this trip. Before I can go, I have to get my blood tested in case I need a transfusion. They don't want me traveling far from home and collapsing. So, early in the morning I'll have my blood drawn and sent to Billings. If I'm in need of new blood, they'll call me and I can have it done in Nebraska.

July 13, 2007: My radiology oncologist made a mold of my head in preparation for my brain radiation. They take a flat piece of plastic with holes in it, melt it in HOT water and then mold it over the face. I worried that when they pulled it away, my skin might come with it! The mold holds my head in the exact same position every time it's on so that they can make marks for radiation in just the right place. Brain radiation is often a precautionary measure, because many times, if lung cancer returns, this is the secondary site where it will show up. The brain has a protective coating, so not all of the chemotherapy can penetrate it, hence the radiation. I'm scheduled for three weeks of this, five days a week, starting the 26th of July. On August 6, I'll get a re-evaluation scan to determine if the cancer is gone or not.

I've developed a hernia which may require surgery. Just what I want. This was probably caused from all of the coughing I do. The only time it bothers me is when I cough and my intestine pokes through the hole. Then I notice it, for sure! Otherwise it's just a tender spot with a soft center where the tear is.

July 16, 2007: Hi friends -- Gay here, feeling well! I didn't need a blood transfusion in Nebraska, so that's good news. Speaking of Nebraska, the whole time I was there we were under tornado warnings. Morning, noon and night. I told my cousin, "If anyone calls me Dorothy, I'm taking my red shoes and I'm outta here"! It was a relaxing, fun trip with lots of laughs, although the heavy oppressive air made breathing hard.

By the way...my hair is growing! It's pure white fuzz that looks just like rabbit fur! They tell me I'll lose it with the brain radiation. This is a good thing. Hoping for real hair next time around.

I don't have much to report right now, which is a good thing. Life is good; I feel good.

July 25, 2007: Today I had the first radiation treatment on my brain. I admit to feeling nervous and a little frightened at the thought of my brain cells being killed. When I voiced my concern to the radiologist, he laughed and told me not to fret. He joked with me, saying he'd only worry if I start to act "normal." I've come to know this man quite well through all of my earlier radiation. He's a lot of fun.

Before we began, they had me sign a consent and release form stating that the doctor or clinic are not responsible for headaches, nausea, tremors, fatigue, permanent hair loss, memory loss, loss of motor skills, blindness or loss of hearing.


I must have seemed a bit hesitant, because the nurse quickly assured me that the percentage of patients who have these problems is small. "Thank you Cathy, but I've already got my dibs on the small survival rate percentage, so I'll pass on these!" I said.

When the procedure started, they laid me on the table, positioned my head in a tray, tied my feet together, handed me a rubber ring to grip, and then slapped the plastic mold on my face. I think the moment of terror hit when they handed me the ring to grip. I asked them if I was having a baby! Joking again, they said, "We never know what will come out of these treatments!" Then they told me that some people are claustrophobic about having their faces covered, and the ring helps them.

So, there I am, unable to move and gripping the ring. Now the torture begins. The radiologist starts tightening the mold onto my face. When it's good and snug, which is a huge understatement, he asks if it's comfortable. How do you answer questions when your nose is flat, your eyeballs are smashed and your upper teeth are making indentations into your lower teeth? To top it all off, I had a cough drop in my mouth. My answer was "I-I-I-I". The man must understand clenched teeth lingo because he said, "Yes, it has to be a little tight." Thank my lucky stars he didn't make it real tight. Ha!

I endured all of this for a half hour while x-rays were taken and developed, the mold was marked, and the radiation given. Mold removed is spelled "R.E.L.I.E.F."! I looked in the mirror while putting my wig back on. What I saw made me laugh. My entire face and head were covered with grooves where the slits in the plastic mold had made indentations in my skin.

All is fine tonight. I haven't lost my memory from dying brain cells yet...I don't think!

July 27, 2007: Yesterday and today the brain radiation treatments were more comfortable because the mold wasn't cinched down as tightly. But again, on both days I had x-rays of my brain taken. It makes me wonder if they're searching for my brain!

The treatment itself only takes about 15 minutes. I had a few moments of concern yesterday when I was finished because my vision was blurry. Thankfully, it cleared up after 20 minutes, and I've had no repeat episodes. I have had a headache, however, and quite severe the first day, but less the last two days. And, as has been the case with all my radiation and chemotherapy treatments, I'm very fatigued. I need a nap everyday, and then by about 8 p.m. I start feeling sick -- like I'm suffering from exhaustion. Sleep makes this go away.

I'm anxious for August 6th to get here. That is the day they'll do an evaluation on the cancer.

Page 9 - Cancer Treatments End and a Good Prognosis

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