Plot Twist: Starting Radiation

First a good news update. Remember that DVT (blood clot in my arm)? I had an ultrasound to check on it and it is gone! No blood clot, no need for blood thinners so I get to stop one pill.

I am starting radiation. It is standard radiation and incorporates breath holding to move my heart and lungs more out of the way. I will have 22 radiation treatments. These will be 5 days a week for 4+ weeks.

Starting is a slow process. I had the first appointment which is the simulation with imaging. I spent 3 hours with the radiation team. I had an IV so they could do a CT scan with contrast. They started by positioning me on a special mat that they made conform to my body. This allows them to position me exactly the same way every time. Once they had me positioned they put me on a breathing device (kind of like a divers snorkel connected to an arm that connects to a computer), used a clothes pin like thing to close my nose so I could only breathe through my mouth through the device, and put virtual reality kind of goggles on me so I could see the computer screen and see my breaths. Then I took breathes – deep breathes, shallow breaths, and then I held my breath for about 20 seconds at a time. Once I mastered the breathe hold technique they started the CT scan. They did scans with normal breathing and with the breath hold.

Even with the customized mat and all, this was not as comfortable as you would hope, The breathing device in my mouth held my head very still and a little awkward (not bad, but not being able to move your head is weird and uncomfortable). And I had to keep my hands over my head and completely still. There were 2 things about this that were uncomfortable. First, it is very cold in the room and my arms were freezing by the end. They are going to cover my arms with warm blankets next time so that should be better. Second, and more serious, my left shoulder is still a little stiff from the broken collarbone. Keeping my arms over my head without moving at all made my shoulder hurt a lot. They put a wedge under my shoulder and that helped. They will do this for all the treatments as well.

And to finish off the day I got 3 tattoos. Before you get excited, they are dots – one on each side and one in the middle. These are covered with stickers so I look like I have targets – which is what they are really.

And now I wait. The team will spend the next week and a half designing my treatment plan. The next time I go in will be a dry run (everything except the actual radiation to make sure everything is properly aligned) followed by a talk with the doctor to explain everything. Then the following day will be the first real radiation treatment. The treatments will last 40 minutes each.

I am not looking forward to the next 5-6 weeks, but I don’t think I should have much in the way of side effects from the radiation. I suspect the worst of it will be a sore shoulder.

Stay tuned. I will provide updates once I start the radiation to track any side effects.