Category Archives: Medical stuff

A marked woman

Radiation treatment follows certain protocols. My treatment is at the MD Anderson satellite here in Albuquerque. After meeting with the radiation oncologist, Dr. G, I have my simulation appointment. This includes a CT scan, painting on the bull’s eyes with magic marker and tape, measuring for an arm mold for placement.

My breast is bare to three people. Since it has already had a mammogram, an ultrasound, a stereotactic core biopsy, wire placement and surgery, it is beginning to feel like community property and is no longer shy. Now it has war paint so is feeling pretty bold.bull's eye

Next the experts will do their calculations, the mold will be made and I will be ready to go with the three week plan plus a extra week to zap the surgical site. This means treatments five days a week and with the extra week, it will be four weeks or twenty treatments.

My choices were the standard six week plan, the three week plan at double dose or the one border markerweek plan that includes inserting a catheter into the breast by the surgeon( imagine the arrow through the head in the really old movies). Radiation seeds will be placed in the catheter twice a day for five days. This was not for me. I did meet an 83 year old woman who was fine. She said it was uncomfortable but she was glad to get it over with.

MD Anderson has Kurig coffee so they get my vote. I always have a cup. It insures staying awake on my drive home.

Treatment is quick. I have number 12 tomorrow. I listen to favorite music as I take my Mini  on its little road trip. Arrive, show my cancer card to reception, check on the lonely fat goldfish in its big tank, make my coffee. Next is patient changing, coed with private stalls for changing into gowns. Waits are short. A good place to compare notes with other patients.

Staff are always friendly and supportive. They take my card. I lay on the table, arm up in the mold, breast bare, bull’s eyes clear. Staff leaves, zap one side(this side has a little sigh in the machine), machine rotates over me, zaps the other side(no sigh). Done. 5 minutes?

My card is next to my coffee and my locker key which is attached to a miniature tennis shoe. I change. Back in the car and home to rest.

I had a rocky start to treatment in that I was trying to do to many other things during treatment. I was extremely tired and discouraged.

The following routine works well for me. I have much more energy on weekends and feel good. I wake, make coffee and journal in my favorite spot(this is leisurely). Shower and dress routine. To Defined Fitness for Tai Chi, M-W-F. or silver sneakers classic workout( a good thing)on T-T. Then home for lunch and a rest. Drive to treatment. Home. Rest. I’m good!

Remember I am also dealing with severe RA and an unfinished thyroid cancer treatment. I think most of us have those complicating extras.

The exercise is guaranteed to cut the fatigue, a major side effect of radiation. It makes me feel better.

My skin seems to be doing well. Some get painful redness like a bad sunburn. I am fortunate Aloe skin Gel so far. A dear client and friend, Julie sent me this Gel. It is excellent and helps me. I put it on when I wake up. Shower it off for treatment. Put it back on when I get home.

Tuesdays I see Dr G. Thursdays, x ray day. This Tuesday I will have another CT scan for machine placement for the surgical site zap week.

Radiation treatment is a good time to take care of your body. Mine appreciates it. My whole body had been through a lot of stuff. There is more to come. It is a good time for love and respect to yourself as it’s your own body that gets you through this. I have a great respect for mine.

Cancer and RA

cancer club thoughts

 

Wednesday I went to a cancer rehab program. This week’s topic was fatigue.  As our instructor was relating reasons for cancer fatigue, she mentioned cytokines circulating in our bodies. I thought that sounded familiar. Circulating cytokines is also a reason for rheumatoid arthritis fatigue.

I mentioned to the instructor that rheumatoid arthritis and cancer have a lot in common including medications. Yes they do, she said. They both are auto-immune diseases.

The Infusion Room

For the last two days I have taken a friend for her chemotherapy at Presbyterian Kaseman Cancer Center.  This is the fifth month of a six month round of therapy.

My friend is resilient, independent and self-sufficient.  She has no choice.  She has no one at home to care for her. Her cancer is stage four.

We check in and go into the center. There is no wait. One of her favorite nurses comes to get her. He brings her into a two recliner room  and inserts her IV catheter. Blood is drawn for the labs. Expertly done.

Next is the weigh in and the doctor’s visit. We have the same doctor. Pleasant man. Today he takes all the time she needs and helps her solve the at home nausea problem and he reviews the labs taken 10 minutes ago.

On to the infusion room. It is a squarish room.  Large windows, mountain view.  Lining the walls are recliners each having an IV pole on a stand with a controller.

The nurse for the day starts a bag of saline running. A warm blanket and pillows appear.  A bag of steroids with nausea medication is hung. Followed by medicine to protect her stomach.

That done the nurse appears gowned  gloved and masked with the first chemo. The infusion is started.  My friend tolerates the infusion. We talk. The oncology dietitian stops by for a visit.  Someone offers us snacks.

I step out for lunch. My friend has a sandwich and a banana. The last bag is hanging.

I am surprised to see that most patients have no one with them to offer support and to while away the time.  I expected someone to be there for each.  Life would be so much better if there were.

Next day was a shorter version of the first. All went well.

Hopefully, her nausea is under control. Today she did express a need for a hamburger. Tomorrow,  if her night goes well, we will stop at Fuddruckers  on the way to our cancer rehab class on managing fatigue.

 

 

 

What happens at a CT scan

purple flowerT-Day

I have to admit I was afraid.  I had set it aside while on my trip. But today was the day. No more ignoring the possibility of more ca.  Today was CT scan day.  I start my day with my normal routine. Thyroid pill.  Load the Starbucks beans. Enjoy as the grinding releases the unmistakable aroma.  Coffee brewing in the dependable Cuisinart.  Check the blood sugar.  Say hello to Max and give him breakfast.  He is busy, but he definitely is not a morning person.

Settle into the first coffee of the day.  Comfy chair.  TJ bouquet is Fall colors. Nice.  Journal out. Start writing.  Write about yesterday. Tough as my RA was flaring again.  Probably because of the 25% cut in prednisone.

Light breakfast.  Need three hours of fasting for this test.  Just make it.

Front Desk Procedure

I arrive at KM Hospital x ray department.  Take a number from the automated ticket dispenser. Sit in a room full of unhappy looking people.  Waiting.  Number called.  Electronic signature times two.  One for permission for treatment.  The other is something about abuse?  My check was less than the test amount.  No problem. I  will be sent a bill.

Next I was sent to see another woman at another desk.  She gave me a form to fill out.  I filled it out and waited until 10 minutes after the appointment time to be called.  Mary she calls. This  new woman did not identify herself.  She asked me for another form.  I did not have it.  She went back to the second woman and got it.  Sat me down in still another waiting room to fill out this form and left.  About 10 minutes later the third (no name) woman returned and led me off.

The Big Machine

The scanner looked like a big electronic donut. I was asked to remove my bra (might wear a sports bra next time) and a dental partial.  Metal.  Was led to a table.  Place for my head. Support for my knees.

An IV was started. (For GI things a drink is given.)  This IV was connected to a fat syringe attached to the scanner.  Head position was checked.  And without a word, my nameless woman left me alone with the machine.

The machine started without warning or pleasantry from the control room.  The machine told me when to breathe and when not to breathe.  I could feel the dye as it entered me and then washed through me as a saturated warmth.  Two doses for two scans.  Quick.

Done

My nameless woman returned.  Removed my IV.  Wrapped the site in a purple stretch bandage.  (I like them.  I feel special like a kid with a super hero band-aide.)  Said I would  hear the results in a few days.  Gave me an instruction sheet not to take my metformin for 48 hours and a card. I finally knew her name as I walked out the door.

Waiting

This is the hard part.  Waiting for the results: what will it be and what will happen next.

thyroid cancer doctor visit April

Nice having many of my doctors in one place: endocrinologist, rheumatologist, medical oncologist. It is chronic disease alley.  The pain clinic is also there. Haven’t been to that  one yet. Lucky for us, the nurses and assistants are very helpful people. The place is always decorated for the current season or holiday. Coffee and tea are served as well as juices and graham crackers. There is never more than a few minutes wait. It is a welcoming, reassuring place. We even have our own lab. Never more than one person ahead of you.

Other areas of the hospital should follow their example. I don’t dread my appointments.

Dr L is an expert in her field. She is conservative, thoughtful and considerate. Her visits are never rushed. I am 100% confident in her choices for me.

I had not seen her(had talked to her on the phone) since my RAI (Radioactive iodine) treatment. The pill that had been presented to me in its 20# lead container was impressive and got my son’s attention that day. Being radioactive was fun only in that my meals were delivered to me.  I read, watched movies and chilled. The next week I had a full body scan(doesn’t include knees down for some reason).

The complication came suddenly with severely inflamed salivary glands, throat, total mouth and tongue. Quite painful! Impossible to eat. Dr L ordered prednisone and soon my whole head and neck was feeling better. This is a common complication. Avoid it if you can. Drinking a lot of water is really the only help.

My Dr L’s appointment started as 20 minutes but ended up an hour. I have new cancer. The RAI might have helped it but in all likelihood it will still be there for the next ultrasound. Another surgery would be the next step. The suspicious lymph gland may not be receptive to the RAI, may be gone, may be something else. A biopsy might be next with possible external beam radiation. I’m still hypothyroid so more levothyroxin for now with a possible change to medication with T3 as well asT4.

Courage

Might just as well feel like a hero in your own movie.