Today was my first day of radiation therapy, and it was a blast. A blast for the glioBLASToma, or at least I hope so.
The cancer center is a very comforting and helpful place, and the radiation procedure was pretty easy. I just lied down with the head mask on and relaxed for 20 minutes or so while some sounds and flashes signal the delivery of rays from the revolutionary Novalis machine. It didn't hurt. It may hurt later, because headache is a possible side effect, especially in the mornings afterward. But as I understand it, some of the common side effects may show up as more of a cumulative effect of multiple treatments. So for today it was fine, but over time there may be a different story.
I read a story about someone who used some "mind-over-matter" visual techniques to help cope with the radiation treatment. I think hers was something like a Space Invaders game or an eraser removing the tumor cells. I used angels.
One of the difficulties of cancer treatment is that it is hard to differentiate between cancer cells and good cells (as someone described to me, like having vanilla pudding mixed in with banana pudding and trying to separate them). But I know that God knows which cells are which. I prayed for His guiding hand to use the treatments as a tool to target the cancer cells, while protecting the healthy cells. And to tell the ministering angels how to find the cancer cells and rebuke them.
So anyway, as the radiation machine was flashing and whirring, I pictured little ministering angels in my head, grabbing the incoming rays and using them to zap the cancer cells, while other angels stood guard over the good cells. And then a thought came to me: "No, it's not like that. It's more like this." Then the angels began motioning to the rays, guiding them where to go, and where not to go. Kind of like a Jedi trick or something. But either way, it was fun to imagine.
The only bad thing was one of the songs I heard in the room while the treatment was going on. They offered to turn off the music so I could have a quiet room, and they offered to let me bring a CD next time if I want to hear anything specific, but today I figured the soft contemporary music they already had playing would be fine. UNTIL I started hearing the singer wail, "I can't live...if living is without you..." I shuddered each time they said, "I can't live..." Not something a cancer patient wants to hear! However, as I relayed this to my husband later in the day, he said, "Hey, maybe that's what the cancer cells are singing!" (Good idea - let's hope so!)
Because radiation can cause swelling in the brain, I was prescribed a regimen of (uh-oh)... STEROIDS! I read about someone who gained 50 pounds during her first few weeks on steroids during radiation treatment. She joked about how the steroids reduce swelling in the brain by making the rest of the body swell up! Fortunately I didn't gain 50 pounds last time, but I gained enough to make me angry once again at the body that betrayed me with its spontaneous and rapid replication of abnormal cells. Between my treadmill and our new Dance Dance Revolution game on our Playstation and the fact that I can't eat anything after dinner (because chemo has to be taken on an empty stomach at night), I am hoping that I can stave off as much "growth" as possible. After all, when I go in for MRI monitoring, I'd like to still be able to fit in the tube!
Part of me is happy about some of the aspects of being "brain on steroids" girl again. It will do wonders for my productivity, which should delight my clients. Part of me dreads the "brain off steroids" feeling at the end of the six week process. The depressing effect from last time was tough, but thankfully temporary.
Now that I am in my first week of combined chemo and radiation treatment, people are anxious to know how I am tolerating it. So far, no apparent side effects. I know that some of the possible effects may be awful, but I am taking it a day at a time, and for today - I'm okay (just a little cancery!)