Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Radiation

     So Beth finished her final (25th) radiation treatment last Friday (and yes, that's her lined up in the machine in the picture). These daily sessions (Mon.-Fri.) have gone pretty smoothly. Most of the time they are between 8 and 9 o'clock in the morning and this timing has worked well, as it's nice to get it out of the way first thing and then get on with the day. Napping in the afternoon has been a pretty regular part of her routine as well, although it's difficult to decide what is causing the tiredness - at first she wondered if it was still recuperation from the surgery, or a cold bug, or a side effect from the radiation. Apparently fatigue is common as the radiation progresses. Her skin (in the areas she receives the radiation) has gotten pretty red, which is normal. We're hopeful that her skin doesn't blister or break open into sores, but that can also be quite common. We were told that effect on the skin will continue for up to 10 days after the treatments are complete (that is, her skin could continue to react for that long). Someone has also said the actual radiation continues to work in the body for up to 2 months after the treatments are finished. There isn't a lot that can be done for the skin - Beth has an anti-itch cream she has begun to use and if sores appear she is just supposed to use polysporin cream or some compresses on it.
     At the beginning of March Beth began attending the Well Fit program on Wednesdays and Fridays, which is run at the University of Waterloo. This is a free fitness program they offer for cancer patients and she finds the trainers to be very good. However her schedule has sometimes made it challenging to make it out on a regular basis.
     There have been a couple of follow-up appointments regarding Beth's (one remaining) parathyroid gland. We saw the surgeon in Toronto on the 11th and he was quite pleased with how the incision is healing, as well as with the calcium level which appears to be approaching normal levels, meaning that the parathyroid is beginning to work. The following week we saw the local endocrinologist who is also following these levels. While there have been some minor medication adjustments made it seems good progress is being made with this aspect of her bodily function.
     One other encouraging appointment this month was with the genetics counsellor at the Grand River Cancer Centre. She has been studying Beth's family history and gathered quite a bit of information from a number of her relatives who have had cancer. The good news is that the results indicate that there is no apparent genetic link. The counsellor seemed to confirm what Beth has been suspecting all along about her cancer history - that she received some form of radiation on her head as a baby, which likely led to the Hodgkin's in her 20's, and the radiation she received for that very probably caused her thyroid cancer in 2002, and may have even been involved in the occurrence of breast cancer now. In the end the lack of a genetic cause is good news for our family, especially our daughter Alison and granddaughter Lindsay.
     Just over a week ago we got a bit of a scare as Beth started to get sick (ie. vomiting) a couple times on Thursday night going into Friday morning. We assumed it was a flu bug and because of the way she was feeling she didn't go in for her regular 8:00 radiation treatment. Fortunately she felt better during the day and the hospital was able to fit her in for the treatment at 4:00. Beth felt fine most of the weekend but then on Sunday night she got sick again. So she laid awake a lot that night beginning to worry about why this could be happening and one thing that she thought was that she has never had a CT scan of her head. Beth couldn't keep her toast down at breakfast but felt well enough to go for the treatment and I tagged along at the last minute in hopes we'd be able to at least talk to the nurse for Beth's radiation doctor. She did meet with us and after listening to our story she was very reassuring - she felt pretty strongly that it was probably just a flu bug (her daughter had had very similar symptoms in the last week), and she said when the brain is affected any nausea or vomiting comes with severe headaches (which Beth wasn't experiencing) and curiously it usually occurs in the morning. She said she would talk to the doctor and was sure he'd gladly book a CT scan for us if we still wanted it.
     So Beth is booked for this scan of her head on Thursday and the doctor said he will meet with us on Friday to share the results. We are certainly hopeful that it will show nothing suspicious. If you're the praying kind we'd obviously appreciate your support in this way. We know from experience that worrying is not a helpful thing but sometimes it gets hard to not worry. Beth doesn't look forward to these kinds of appointments much, as she's had too many times when she went into a doctor's office expecting everything to be fine and then having a bombshell dropped on her. Praying that won't be true on Friday.

3 comments:

Michael Bells said...

praying... thanks for the updates... it's so good hearing the story of excellent care

Kathy said...

Saying lots of prayers that there will be good reassuring news for Beth and all of your family on Friday.

Yvonne Winchur said...

Thanks for the update, Terry. I think of you and Beth often as you go through all of these treatments. My prayers, such that they are, are with both of you and all of your family, especially on Friday.