Last Wednesday, April 5th, I had an appointment with my Radiation Oncologist. The office I go to had just been purchased by the hospital where my Medical Oncologist and Surgeon have their offices. Because of the purchase, I had to wait a bit and fill out all new paperwork, eight pages, before I could see my doctor. My husband could not go with me because his office forgot that someone was going on vacation, and they needed him to train a new employee and cover for the person who was out. I was OK with this only because I was meeting with the same doctor I had in 2019 for radiation, so I was comfortable going alone.
Once my paperwork was done, I had a relatively long wait until the PA came to get me to weigh me and take me to an exam room. She then took my blood pressure, temperature, and heart rate. She reviewed a few details from my paperwork, chatted with me briefly, and then the nurse came in to see me. The nurse took a look at my paperwork and then asked me about my surgeries and previous treatments of both chemo and radiation and let me know that my doctor would be in soon.
My doctor knocked on the door and then opened it a little and looked at me with a sad face, and I responded with my sad face and told her that I was happy to see her but not for the reason why. She came into the exam room and hugged me. We sat down, and she asked me what had been going on since the last time I saw her, which was after I had the biopsy of the tumors in my neck done by my surgeon, and the results came back positive for caner. I explained that when I had my PET Scan in March 2022, they found a tumor on my 8th rib on the left side of my back. We talked about the PET Scans I had in July and November 2022 and the most recent one two weeks before my appointment with her.
I asked her how many treatments I would have, and she said 10 to 14. I wondered if I would need to use the medicated lotion I had the last time I had radiation, and she said no. I was relieved because I couldn’t reach where the tumor was located to apply cream due to the limited mobility in my left arm. She said that I would not have any burns this time and I should not have any pain at the treatment site. She told me that she recently had a patient with a tumor very close to the exact location as mine, and the only issue she had was in the last two days of treatment when she was eating, she could feel her food moving through her esophagus. The location of my tumor and the esophagus are very close together, which I wasn’t aware of. I asked her what I could expect my results once my treatment was over. She said that the radiation would kill all cancer cells and that there should be no trace of my tumor left.
I will most likely not know my results from the radiation treatment until my next PET scan, which is in July. Due to having had a PET scan a few weeks ago and then have 10 to 14 treatments by the end of April, it would be too much radiation exposure to have a PET scan any sooner than my regular 4-month scan.
At the end of my appointment, she said that I would have to come back on another day for my SIMs appointment. The soonest appointment she had was the next day at 8:00 am, so I told her I would come back then. I chose that appointment because the next one available would have been yesterday, April 10th, which would have delayed my starting treatment by another week. So, if all goes well, I should start treatment this Thursday, April 13th. I do not have my start date confirmed yet as I am waiting on the office to call me and schedule my first treatment appointment. Once I go in for the first treatment, I will have my other appointments scheduled, and they will all be at the same time every day, Monday through Friday.
The reason why it takes so long to schedule my first treatment is that my doctor needs time to look at the CT that was done at her office, the PET scan images, and the report from a few weeks ago, as well as any notes from my medical oncologist. Once she has reviewed everything, she will determine the exact amount of treatments I will need and what my doses of radiation will be. If I remember correctly, the treatments start at a specific dosage at the beginning and increase as I go through each treatment.
So the following day, I had my SIMs appointment, and that is where they did a CT and marked the exact location for the radiation treatments. After the CT, they placed me in the same position I needed to be on the table so they would know where to line up the radiation machine to my body. Due to mobility issues with my left arm, they had to inflate a pillow made from thick paper to put behind it so I had the support I needed to put my arm back to the handles at the top of the table. For comparison, in 2019, when I had radiation, I had to have support then as well, but substantially more because my mobility was much worse than it is now. Once I was positioned correctly, they marked three locations on my body with clear stickers with x’s. I specifically asked that they not tattoo me as they did last time because that was a nightmare for me, and I had to have laser treatments to get rid of the tattoos after my treatment was over.
Sorry this post was so long, but I wanted to combine both appointments in one post vs. doing two. I will update you when I know when my appointments will be, how many treatments I will have, and when my last treatment will be when I once again get to ring the bell!