Yesterday, I completed my six-week radiation treatment at the Cancer Center at Aria Torresdale. Every day, Monday through Friday, I showed up and got zapped. Most of the time I was in and out very quickly, but there was a stretch of a few days about halfway through in which there were issues (either with their machine needing a replacement part, or emergency cases being sent from the main hospital to the Cancer Center). One day I had to wait over 90 minutes. Last two weeks or so were an absolute breeze. Once a week I saw the radiation oncologist for a brief checkup, including looking into my mouth for signs of thrush...thrush! Heh. Everything has checked out fine, though.
Here I am on the table. They were kind enough to take a pic for me. I thought it might be weird but it seems I'm far from the first person to ask. The mask on my face was molded prior to my first treatment. It's snapped into the headrest and is designed to keep my head and face aligned properly, as the radiation is focused on very specific targets.
On the chemo end, I had issues with the chemo oncologist's staffers and/or the pharmacies dispensing my chemo pills (sort of described here). After getting all of that corrected, I took the chemo pills daily. Again, I saw the oncologist (or physician's assistant in a couple of cases when the doctor was on vacation) weekly. They took blood at each visit to check my cell counts. Again, everything has checked out fine. I am, for now, finished with the chemo pills for a while.
I'm very happy to report that throughout this time I've had no nausea or vomiting. That in itself has made my life much easier. Nor, to my knowledge, did I have any short-term memory loss. As far as I can tell, my level of forgetfulness hasn't changed. I mean, the t-shirts shown at the end of this post were both purchased before the health problems began. However, my hair did start falling out. It was pretty short to begin with once I finally got a haircut to even out the shaved-for-surgery part with the rest of my hairline, but when there was hair on my pillow two days in a row I decided it was time to keep my head shaved for a while. I'm sure you've seen various pics on my social media already, including the one where I compared myself to Lex Luthor, but I thought of another one, which is a better match because of the facial hair and glasses (and cancer diagnosis, too). Separated at birth?
The next steps come towards the end of September. I have followups with the chemo oncologist on September 23rd where we'll set up the next round of chemo. The general plan as I understand it now is to increase the dosage I take, but I'll only take it a certain number of days rather than on a daily basis. On the 30th I go back to the radiation oncologist. Between the two, we'll have to determine the time I get my followup MRI. I saw the neurologist last week and he said that they have to let the treatments work through my system so the followup should be about 6-8 weeks after the last treatment. The other day the chemo doctor said that it should be 2-3 months. (Two months is about eight weeks, of course.) I explained how I felt that, when I was originally thought to have had a small stroke, it took new symptoms and hospitalization for me to get a new MRI in June. I feel that had I had one in May, when I initially followed up with a neurologist, the tumor would have been found sooner. So when I go on the 23rd I will be very clear that I want the MRI done as early as possible. Eight weeks from yesterday is October 23, so I'll want it done very close to that date, if not earlier. After that I'll visit the neurologist again and I guess I'll have a better idea of my long-term prognosis.
On my diabetes situation: I had the A1C test done again in mid-July. My A1C score (8.4 or 8.6, I forget exactly, back in April during my first hospitalization) was down to 5.7 -- barely above the level where you are considered NOT at risk of diabetes. I'm still on the diabetes meds and watching my carbs. Maybe, with the passage of time and continued good results, I'll be able to get rid of those meds as well, but even if I don't, that's okay. My weight is down to 225 (undressed, add about 5-6 lbs. when I'm fully clothed) and I am comfortably wearing pants with a 40 waist. I've been as high as a 48, and was at 44 prior to April. I swear, at some point if I try on pants with a 38 waist and they fit, you will hear my screams no matter where in the multiverse you are. And even if I stay where I'm at, the fact that I am being careful with the carbs but still having some of the snacks I like (portion control, people!) makes me feel confident that I will never again that much weight. I've gotten rid of a lot of my larger clothing and will do some more in the coming weeks. (That reminds me: I have to get new dress slacks soon. Shorts weather won't last forever.)
So now my schedule is completely free until the 23rd. I can travel (well, depending on the cost) again! That is, unless I get called back to work, of course. If I do get called back (which isn't guaranteed; it depends on how many jobs are available and how many ahead of me choose to return, as I'm last in seniority) it shouldn't be within these next couple of weeks. I'm a bit torn. Part of me wants to be called back right away because the other two times I was hired it was after everyone else started and I had to be trained/retrained on my own (or I basically read the stuff myself) and it made doing the job more difficult for me in a lot of ways. On the other hand, if they don't call me back I can finally file for unemployment at the start of October.
For the most part things have gone so smoothly, and I'm even getting things in order (such as getting my comic books boxed up, all of my personal papers organized, getting rid of some of the crap in my basement, etc.). Due to a combination of the structured schedule (radiation every weekday at noon) and, to some extent, my meds, I have become one of the things I abhor the most: a morning person. :) That has helped me in the above-mentioned tasks and given me more time to get to more movies, a few Phillies games, and other local excursions.
Again, I can't thank everyone enough for the kind words, wishes, prayers, thoughts, vibes, jokes, etc. They are very much appreciated.
Just one last thing, because this has truly, beyond everything else, angered me.
I had 30 radiation treatments. 30. THIRTY times I had radiation being zapped into my body. And NOT ONCE, in all that time, did a spider show up and bite me. Not once!
I WANT MY SUPER-POWERS, DAMMIT!