The next step in this journey is radiation. We met with my radiation oncologist this week. I got my mask (explained below) and I will begin treatment on Thursday, February 22.
Part 1 – Appointment
- We met with my radiation oncologist and his resident this week. The doctor was very impressed with my progress thus far. He said that I didn’t look any different from when he saw me before my surgery. (woo hoo!)
- Radiation is expected to take between 6 – 6.5 weeks. Per the radiation oncologist, the way that the pathology report was written, there was some ambiguity as to whether there were positive or negative margins. He wants to speak with the pathologist who wrote the report. This will determine if I get 6 weeks of radiation or 6.5 weeks. We are expected to know soon.
- My overall treatment plan requires me to get radiation every Monday through Friday for 6 – 6.5 weeks. The appointment itself is less than 30 minutes including set up and treatment. My goal is to work half days in the morning and get treatment in the afternoon.
- Dr. Donovan saved most of my thyroid; He only removed a small portion. But my radiation oncologist believes that it is possible my thyroid will loose some of its function due to the radiation treatment. In the months after completion of radiation, they will need to monitor my thyroid to determine if my thyroid is functioning.
- Other effects from radiation include, dry mouth, skin sensitivity (burns due to the radiation treatment), and fatigue. I hope to have minimal side effects but my doctor shared there are remedies to make me more comfortable should there be an issue.
Part 2 – CT and Mask Making!
- So, the next part of my appointment was required for the radiation oncologist to develop an accurate treatment plan; its called Simulation. There is alot of physics and location mapping involved in planning treatment. Its a very detailed process and requires precision, so they took a CT scan and created a mask that I will wear during treatment. One purpose of the mask is to keep me still, so they can get a precise treatment delivered. Marks are also placed on the mask to help with aligning met in the correct position for treatment.
- Mask making: I walked into a room where they had a small clear oven with a sheet of yellow mesh inside. I laid down on the metal bed with a thin cushion and position myself at the top. Two technicians were in the room and one asked what kind of music I liked. Not knowing if they could read lips, I mouthed “Rock.” To my delight, she ended up playing Foo Fighters, my favorite band. I immediately felt a sense of relief. I am not typically claustrophobic but the idea of having a mask strapped to a table didn’t exactly excite me. Together they grabbed the flexible mesh and quickly stretched it across my face and snapped it into place on either side of me. (As terrifying as this sounds, I’m strapped down to a table) To my surprise, the warmth of the mesh felt like a warm blanket across my face like in one of those fancy spas. They cut a hole in the mesh around my stoma and near my nose (not sure why…it doesn’t work but I assume its procedure) It took a few minutes for the material to harden. They continued to press the material across my upper body to make shape of my torso and head. I only briefly felt uneasy but the the feeling quickly went away as I focused on the warmth of the material and the changing of the rock station.
- Here’s a video also explaining the mask/mold process:
- CT Scan: The technicians left the room and the CT scan machine began to move. I went though a few passes and before I knew it it was over. I was impressed that the procedure was effortless and painless. This CT did not involve the contrast that makes you feel warm and think you are peeing your pants! Before I left the room I was able to grab a pic of my new mask; here it is:
Overall, both my wife and I are doing well. We are ready to tackle this next point in the journey. Having a few weeks to relax and get out lives back in order has been really helpful. We’ve tried to get out of our apartment as much as possible by hanging out with friends and visiting family but I will share we started Game of Thrones and have been trying to limit ourselves to one episode a night…its just so dang addicting!