I had my first planning scan at Vincent Palotti on Monday 29 June 2015 for brain tumour radiation. The Medical Aid approved steriotactic radiation for the one tumour I had on the brain, as that allows the radiation to be applied very precisely at the tumour. Firstly, a mask gets made for your face, to keep your head still and in the right position when you come for radiation. That is what is happening in the above photo. I think I returned once only to Vincent Palotti on the day that I had the radiation. I don’t think I had another session.
You get there, lie on a table (which is part of the radiology machine), on a rubber mattress, it’s dark and peaceful, your mask fits over your face and clicks in place as it’s attached to the table, you’re covered with a blanket and not long after you hear the machine go “beeep”. You’re out of there within 10 minutes. No pain.
On 8 July 2015 I started lung radiation over a 3 week period, Mondays to Fridays, at Panorama. I was told of the side effects and suffered digestive problems and had a complete change in taste. Coffee and chocolates suddenly tasted awful. Doughnuts, my old favourites, suddenly became tasteless cardboard. It didn’t happen right away but was definitely present when I got admitted to hospital on Friday 24 July. It was hard swallowing my eggs at breakfast time in hospital. I think it took about 3 months for my taste to return to normal.
Thereafter there is nothing much to do but wait. The radiation has a window period within which it operates and continues to cure. So by December 2015 I finally had my follow up MRI scans to see my progress. By then the lung tumour had reduced from about 11cm to 4cm and the tumour on the brain was virtually gone. BUT there were new tumours on the brain, about four of them. On Monday 6 January I started whole-head radiation over 12 sessions, Mondays to Fridays. It is the whole head radiation that runs the risk of taking the last of my hair! Oh how priorities have changed!
Brain radiation makes the brain swell more and I had some episodes of unsteadiness and general giddiness and not being able to think clearly or do things for myself. I suddenly struggled and couldn’t type! That was the worst! I must rank as one of the fastest and most accurate typists and suddenly I’m without both skills, oh that was unbearable! If that had to be permanent oh how empty my life would be! I finally went to the Emergency Room on Monday 11 January 2016. Before going in, Bianca said rather pack your bag. (Because last time I had a long hospital stay which we didn’t anticipate and I arrived with nothing!) So I sat on the bed and tried to think how and what to pack but by then I just couldn’t. My mum had to help pack. They gave me a cortisone injection and prescription so I’m back on cortisone for about a month / month and a half, including the weaning off period.
I have so far managed to avoid chemotherapy. It is not something I am keen on as I find it more invasive than radiation. I’m sure it’s a chemical that messes up the system terribly in its fight to kill cancer. I’ve heard of others who have been terribly affected by this drug. I’ll remain cautious….
When we initially had the cancer result, there were mixed feelings in the family. I had perceptions out of ignorance; Bianca, the scientist, nudged me towards opting for scientifically proven technology like chemotherapy and radiation. On the other hand, Michaela, my healer daughter who has shunned and banished every chemical from her body or abode, strongly advised against them. “Go the natural way mum. By eating right you can starve and kill your cancer.” Not all of us are that resolute unfortunately!
I was given time frames by doctors – one month without treatment. I felt I had no choice. I could not place my life in the balance with unproven theories. I did a lot of cancer research for the first time.