My First Round of Stereotactic Radiation Therapy

I completed the five rounds of recommended radiation over the course of two weeks. My parents live in Atlanta near the hospital I use so I stayed with them for an entire month. I love my parents, but I missed my daughter so very much. My parents are the supportive type and although I am 40 they are helicopter parents when it comes to my disease. I believe I would be the same if my daughter were in this situation.

The oncologists were unable to get a biopsy without doing open-heart surgery so they went ahead with SBRT (stereotactic radiation therapy) to the area the cancer was active. Let me explain, for those who may have to do this, exactly what it's like.

Deciding on stereotactic radiation therapy

I met with the radiation oncologist. He explained that in clinical trials, this dosage of radiation killed all patients in 3 rounds, therefore we needed to lower the dosage and do it in 5 rounds every other day. This would give my tissue time to heal.

My body cast was made for my SBRT treatment. This treatment was easier to do but harder on my body than the last SBRT. In 2013, I had SBRT to my primary tumor which sat in the lower lobe of my lung. This treatment is dealing with an area in the top right hilar area (top right). The tumor board decided that radiation therapy was our best course of action. After all, it was the only area lighting up on my PET scan. When an area lights up in a PET scan, it usually means there is metabolic activity.

My first SBRT treatment experience

My first visit consisted of an overview of the treatment plan and cast for the radiation. I was so grateful I didn't have to be saran-wrapped like a victim off of Dexter. I laid down on this device and it melted my body into it, making for a perfect fit. And, this time I didn't have to exhale and hold my breath. Instead, I inhaled and held my breath when asked and that turned out to be much easier.

One day after treatment, my eyes felt crossed. The tech said there was nothing wrong with them, but it was making me dizzy and I was so grateful my parents were there to drive me home. I got into my routine and knew the techs well, although I did have to take off my shirt for a gown and believed I need to lay off the tacos. I have a plan for that.

Fighting through my nerves for my daughter

The first round I felt extremely nervous. I was so nervous I went ahead and drew up my last will and testament along with medical directives. During this round, I could actually feel the laser radiating the tumor. It didn't hurt at all. It was an odd vibration near my heart. Keep in mind they had to go through my heart to achieve the results they wanted, hence the lower dosage.

I knew the risks going in and I also knew my alternative. Seven years ago I made a promise to a little girl who is my whole world that I would never give up. I plan on keeping it that way.

Risk versus reward?

Every day that I went for treatment, the tech always had a stool for me to step up on to get to the table. I'm so stubborn that I refused it each time and jumped on the table myself.

Each round of radiation, they first do a CT scan to get a precise location of the tumor. If I were to move or breathe during radiation, it would automatically shut off. I knew I was damaging my heart area and I knew my esophagus was getting damaged as well. I just wasn't sure how much. But I'll get into some of the immediate side effects on my next article.

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