Saturday, June 05, 2010

06/01/10 - Radiation 5.1

Posted 6/5. New notation: Series 5 (the fifth time I have received radiation treatment), Session 1 (the first of 17 radiation doses I am scheduled to receive). The number of treatments is adding up, so I created this notation to help myself and anyone else to keep track of them...

I didn't have any pictures taken at the session, because it was a little longer than normal as it was the first one. The radiation technicians made sure to place me accurately, and add pen marks and new tattoos to my lower back. Thanks Rick and Nancy!

Actually, when I did get home later that evening, I asked Laura to take pictures of my lower back. There were a LOT of blue circles around old and new tattoos which the technicians did during the session. I don't know which tattoos are old and which are new, although I could take an educated guess... They will appear as tiny blue "periods" (.) when they heal.

My lower back, targets and tattoos are circled in blue

Other than being about twice as long as usual (still relatively quick), radiation 5.1 went well.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

05/30/10 - 5/31/10 - Emergency Room Visit, Pleurisy?

Posted 6/4. Late Saturday (5/29) afternoon, I had a pain start in my right-chest area. It wasn't so bad, so I just dealt with it. That all changed as it kept worsening throughout Sunday. I didn't tell Laura, as I could still tolerate it, and it was now near bedtime and I didn't want her to worry all night.

She fell asleep quickly, and I still watched TV a little bit. Upon laying down in bed, I felt what was now a very increased sharp pain in my right chest, especially when I inhaled. The deeper I inhaled, the worse the pain got. I could no longer tolerate it.

I woke Laura up, and said I needed an ambulance. We went back and forth for a little bit, and decided to take her car to a nearby hospital. We went to the Emergency Room (~10:30PM), and I was quickly admitted (I guess "experiencing chest pains" speeds things up quit a bit :) ). Just as quickly, my veins were accessed via an IV and around 5 external patches were adhered to my chest.

Before I knew it, blood was drawn to test for various enzymes, cell counts and bacteria. The patches on my chest were attached to what I assume was an ECG (Electrocardiogram). I should've asked... A technician came in and took an X-Ray of my chest... I was also put on supplemental oxygen...

By this time, it was around 2:00AM, and things started to slow down a bit. I told Laura that she should go home to get "some" sleep (she left before 2:30). I was given pain medication around 12:30 and 2:30, they helped, but I could still feel the pain. Oh yeah, before Laura left she took a picture of me with my cell phone (it did not come out), and she was "reprimanded" by a nurse about taking pictures. I didn't realize it was a secret. This entry is too far along for me to stop...

Sometime around 3-3:30AM I had a CT (Cat) scan of my chest scan. It was specifically to look at my heart, and I'm sure there were other features of the scan, so it was called an "angiogram." I'm pretty sure that is what I was told, but my spell-checker suggests "cardiogram." I just looked up both quickly on Wikipedia, I'll stick with angiogram for now...

Not long after, I was admitted to a private room. Sleep, Blood Draw, Sleep, Blood Draw, Sleep, Talk to Cardiologist, Sleep, Call Laura and tell her not to come until around noon, Sleep, Eat Hospital Breakfast after 11AM while watching "The Price Is Right," Laura Arrives (~noon), Eat Hospital Lunch (~1:00PM), Cautiously take pictures, Wait.

Me in hospital bed ~1:00pm, Memorial Day (Monday)

IV in my arm

My PCP (he was my PCP-Primary Care Provider, on my old insurance, now he's probably my primary Doctor, or whatever my current insurance says) came in sometime after 4PM. He suggested I had,"Pleurisy" an inflammation of the outer lining of my lungs. He prescribed some steroid-based medication to be taken in decreasing doses over the next six days. He also released me from the hospital which also was a relief because Monday night was rapidly approaching.

My first full day of taking the drug was Tuesday. Six pills throughout the day. That first day's dose almost eliminated the sharp pain. The next day, I took 5 more pills, Pleurisy be gone! And so it was... I still have to take doses 3-2-1 over the next few days, but so far, it has been a great relief! Oh yeah, I started Radiation Tuesday night...

A few facts about pleurisy (from Wikipedia). It has many causes, regrettably cancer is one, :(. It can easily lead to pneumonia and death... Benjamin Franklin died due to pleurisy. In 1973, Elvis was diagnosed with recurrent pleurisy. Ringo Starr had chronic-pleurisy when he was 13. Sleep is good to overcome Pleurisy, which I shall now partake of since I woke-up at 5:00AM...

05/26/10 - Radiation Simulation

Posted 6/1. Last Wednesday afternoon, I had a radiation simulation, my fifth one. Seems like I just had one (3/25/10)! Below are some pictures of CT ("Cat") Scans, in progress... Click on any picture to enlarge it.

My lower body protruding from CT Scanner, blue arrows point to marks on my skin

CT scans are used to line up external marks to internal areas, such as my L4 vertebra, which is due for treatment by this round of radiation. This way, the radiation technicians can accurately position my body for treatments in the future. The radiation machine also takes a couple of X-Rays to more precisely position me at each treatment, in between when the techs leave the radiation room and the actual radiation treatment begins.

My upper body protruding from CT Scanner, blue arrows point to marks on my skin

During the simulation process, the technician draws several plus signs (+) on me for markers. For this simulation, I know that the tech marked the first "+" on a tattoo (a small, permanent dot) on the skin above my lower spinal column. The tattoo was created at my last simulation. After that first mark, lasers were aligned, and I had two more reference marks placed on my sides in blue pen.

Reference BBs (fiducials), that were stuck to pen marks (+ signs) on my body

Before my final CT scan, the tech placed little stickers on each of my three plus signs, or reference marks. The stickers have a metal "bee-bee" on them an they are placed so that they line up with the plus sign center (think cross-hair). The BBs show up as bright spots on the CT scan, referencing the marks on my skin to my internal anatomy. Voila! The simulation is done!

05/25/10 - Radiation Oncologist Visit

Posted 6/1/10. Today, I visited my radiation oncologist to find out his strategy on treating the "ugly" portion of my MRI from 5/20/10. Unfortunately, he can't just set off a "nuclear bomb" at the base of my spine to take care everything at once, :(. Treating all of the "bad" areas would be too much radiation for me at once.

My "L4 Lesion" amongst other tumors...

My radiation oncologist is going to focus on treating my L4 lesion right now, for two main reasons. First. the L4 lesion is pretty much an anatomically isolated structure, it is one vertebra of my spine, physically separated from other features (for example treating tumors on/in my spinal cord, would involve at least two items, my tumors and my spinal cord).

The second reason for treating the L4 area of my spine first is that it will likely end the lower-back pain that I have been experiencing for several months now. We'll see how it goes...