Mathew is doing great so far this week. He is on day 2 of cycle 8 of chemo and finished day 2 of his radiation.
Mathew is EATING ~ he is hungry! Yesterday he wanted chicken strips and fries for lunch so I ran off to the cafeteria to make his wish come true. The photo shows him in great spirits getting ready to chow down.
The shirt is one he got for Halloween…not sure why he is wearing it now but the nurses and doctors got a chuckle out of it, it says “I’m Scary Without a Costume”.
Now, about the radiation.
Mathew will get 28 doses of radiation, over 5-1/2 weeks for a total of …um, something called 4050 cgy. That strength of radiation means nothing to me but someone out there might understand it.
This next photo shows Mathew getting ready for today’s dose of radiation. That huge machine behind him turns in a circle; can you believe it? I couldn’t imagine how easily it turns but it does. Mathew is lying on the hard table with his head and arms in one mold that is visible in this photo.
The next photo shows the whole machine much better. The table Mathew is on moves every angle that is needed to position the patient in the determined position. The table glides in towards the machine, then it is raised, lowered or shifted side to side to match up his tattoos with the green beam.
Once that is done the technologists (and me) retreat to their operating station, safely outside this room. There are 3 computer screens used with two showing Mathew on the table. A CT scan is taken to ensure his position is exactly the same as the day before. They can talk to Mathew over an intercom and hear him as well.
The actual “zapping” part of radiation lasts a couple of minutes. Most of the time is spent positioning him correctly.
That huge machine rotates until the part sending out the radiation is beneath the table. Mathew’s radiation is being sent from his back up to the tumour.
So far there are no complaints aside from a bit of queasiness when he got off the table yesterday. Lying in this position on his back is uncomfortable and a little painful by the time it is over. He lets them know he doesn’t like it!
One of the reasons Mathew’s total radiation dose is that magic number I noted above has to do with his spine. The other reason, I learned to my surprise today, is his kidney. A very small portion of his one kidney is in the line of fire for the radiation and it will be scarred and damaged. It is a small amount and since Mathew is otherwise young and still in overall good health (aside from the cancer of course), he can tolerate the damage and it is deemed an acceptable risk. Only the small portion of the kidney directly hit by the radiation beam will be damaged; the rest of the kidney will be fine.
The spinal cord can only tolerate so much radiation as well so that also plays into the final calculated dose Mathew can safely receive.
In case you think these radiation numbers and amounts are hastily contrived they are not. The Radiologist Oncologist considers many factors when determining the length and strength of radiation. Then it is simulated in a computer programme, mapping out the precise area of treatment and what has to be considered. Mathew’s case is a little complicated because of the spinal cord and then the kidney, so all calculations were checked and rechecked then looked at again. The radiation therapists run everything through their computers and then the physicists triple check once the doctor and the radiation team does their simulations. From the outside, as the patient or family member, it looks like he went in for a Cat scan, two moulds were taken to hold him in place and voila ~ two weeks later we show up and Mathew is tossed on the table and a beam does its dirty work on the cancer. Not so! The hidden, background work is tremendous and it is so much more involved and complicated than we could ever guess!
Dr. Naz noted that Mathew’s tumour has shrunk a tiny bit from the December scan to the January pre-radiation scan. She sent the scans over to the Radiology department for them to check the measurements and they concurred the tumour was indeed a little smaller. That is great news!!
Side effects for radiation in the lower spine includes (SIGH) diarrhea and fatigue. It normally manifests itself in the second or third week of treatment…oh, right about the time his blood counts bottom out. Next week could be a nail-biter watching over him. I’m also taking a picture of the skin on his back every day so if there is a change we note when it occurred. He has a tiny scar from the biopsy done back in September and it is the “x” that marks the spot, easy for us to find.
For the first time, Mathew’s weight held steady at his weigh-in! I was delighted and relieved. Before each chemo cycle Mathew’s weight and height are recorded as they are used to calculate the amount of chemicals his body needs for treatment. He isn’t nauseous up to now and he’s eating and HUNGRY! I love it ~ wouldn’t it be nice if that extra week to recover was just enough to kickstart his system back to something more normal? The nurses keep popping in to say hello and see Mathew in his happy state. He is singing and playing his Nintendo DS, watching tv and shows on the laptop; it is soooooo nice to see.
The hourly bathroom runs are on again. While he is getting his chemo the iv fluids can’t run so there’s a break there. Otherwise they are flushing the fluids through and he visits the bathroom so frequently I think he’s beaten a path in the floor. This is the hardest part of it all; the constant journeys to the toilet. It wears on you; 24 hours a day for 5-6 days straight. That is what tires me out the most and I’m sure Mathew as well. The flushing is keeping his kidneys and other organs safe so it will be worth it when this is all over.
Mathew’s radiation appointments when he isn’t in the hospital will be scheduled for afternoon. This is a relief because he moooooves.soooooo.slooooow I was worried about any early morning appointments. The 28 doses works out to 5 weeks plus 3 days. Once that is finished that is his lifetime of radiation. He won’t be able to ever have any more without significant and unacceptable side effects to his body. The damage would be worse than the reason he needed the radiation to begin with.
Let’s all hope this radiation and chemo combination continues to shrink and kill that tumour. Die! Die! DIE!!!