Friday, August 19, 2016

Gamma Knife ... Check!

Gamma Knife ... CHECK!  Well, I made it through Gamma Knife radiosurgery two days ago.  I admit, it was scary, especially after I Googled it and looked at "images."  How dumb was that?!  Alright so, some of it was helpful information, such as this graphic:

 Well-written, informative, good to know.   Thanks, Google!

Others, such as these of actual other people goin' under the Gamma Knife ... well, let's see.



Notice how I've captioned each of these.  These folks are all SMILING for the Gamma Knife photo.  I showed some of these to my 14-year-old son the night before my procedure, and it was he who said "Why are they smiling??".  And then I said I didn't know, but I thanked him for pointing that out.  Because if they're all smiling, it mustn't be that bad, right?

My hero
Then there's this guy.  I only WISH I could face cancer with this kind of intensity.  Dayum.  You rock, fellow Gamma Knife patient. YOU. ROCK!

And then there's this wimpy chick-- me.  Here they had applied the EMLA cream onto the four sites where the frame would be screwed into the skull.  No big deal, just numbing cream onto the skin.  A sort of pre-local-anesthetic anesthetic.  Once it was applied, I just sat there and Danny was smiley-chuckly.  I'm like, "What?"  I kept seeing something in my periphery, up toward the forehead, but I was thinking that I was getting glimpses of the cream.  He says, "Look at it with your phone."  So I do, and feel goofy as heck because I was unaware that there were 3x3 gauze pads stuck to the cream in each spot.  Have some mercy, nurses!  Aren't you supposed to maintain some level of dignity for the patient?  :)  For good measure, I added more goof to my facial expression.  Do not look at my old lady neck.
I told you not to look, and you did anyway!  Ewwwww!

Next, the time had come for the wire frame to be applied to my head.  Here's me and Dr. Frankenstein, I mean Dr. Shedden.  NICE guy, this neurosurgeon, (and very experienced and very gentle) but considering what he's doing to me, and I cannot get the name Frankenstein out of my head.  I mean no disrespect, Dr. Shedden, honest.
Do you SEE this contraption that is now attached to my head??  Thanks to the sedation, I'm real fuzzy on what exactly was going on. All I know is that at some point, there was intense pain, although thankfully it was short-lived.  I think that was when he was injecting the local anesthetic.  Or it may have been when the screws were being screwed into the skull.  It makes more sense that it would be the injections, which are meant to numb the area so the screws don't hurt.  Right?  I think so.  I'm also not clear on all the pieces parts that were involved.  We have the frame, and we have the box-like thingy on top of the frame, and we have the alien attachment (or astronaut attachment, take your pick.)

These two pics are just sad.  I've just finished crying.  The face is totally taking away from my own cute pajamas they let me keep on.  Danny tells me that the pictures don't do it justice ... that being there, like he was allowed to do, looked much worse.  There were tears.  There was bleeding.  Poor baby had to look away at some point.

Once it was all set up and in place, there was no more pain, and I was OK!  The whole get-up was heavy!  It actually reminded me of big football helmets on little kids.  Of course those aren't attached to the skull, but it's probably a similar heaviness.  Maybe.  And it was weird because if they worked on one area, such as one of the screws or as they attached the different helmets(?) to the frame, I felt it deep inside, like down to my teeth.  Can't say I've ever felt anything like it before.  Nor do I wish to feel it again.

At the MRI machine, they guided my head back into this cavity where my head, in its wire frame, sorta snapped into place.  There was no moving my head, even if I tried.  Which was the whole idea in the first place-- Precise radiotherapy to blast away my small, 4-5mm brain metastasis in the right frontal lobe.

After the MRI / Gamma Knife was completed, they sat me up and I asked my radiation oncologist if all went as expected.  She said yes, but added that the lesion seen on my first MRI (6 weeks earlier) had grown to 1cm in size, AND there were 2 MORE smaller lesions seen.  They "got them all."

Here are a couple of pics post Gamma Knife, but before the frame was removed.  No pain at that point, so you see some little smiles, but we were quite discouraged with the findings of growth and new lesions.

I'm two days post Gamma Knife, and I have just a little soreness that feels like a bruise (well, 4 of them.)  Now just anxiously awaiting my scans next week.

This week I received some special gifts!  The first was from a friend who vacationed in NOLA and thought enough of me to bring my favorite king cake from my favorite bakery.  The second was a beautiful bouquet of flowers from a good buddy whom I've known since nursing school (we met when I asked if I could borrow her notes from the following day because I was getting married!)  Thanks, ladies!

Oh, and since I'm including lotsa photos in this post, here's another one that makes me happy.  My baby boy, on his 14th birthday!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Cancer, you suck!!!

I am now in what feels like the longest three weeks of my life. Well, maybe not really, but it's darn long!  I decided last week to discontinue my chemotherapy until after I get my scans on August 23rd.  I can no longer stand taking Taxotere.  In the healthcare profession, when a patient doesn't want to take a particular medication or treatment, they say she is "refusing" it.  When she takes it upon herself to not do what a physician recommends, she is considered "noncompliant."  Not sure where this falls along that spectrum.  Perhaps it's different with cancer patients and the decisions that sometimes have to be made.  Never having worked in the cancer specialty and only been a patient (albeit a very experienced patient!), I don't know.  All I do know is I'm done with Taxotere, for good.  The best way I can think to describe it is this:  I'm getting off of Taxotere because either it's no longer working and the scans will show progression, OR I'm getting off of Taxotere because it's too damn toxic!  See there?  Either way I'm getting off Taxotere.  Case closed.

Unfortunately, I am fairly certain that my scans will show some progression and I will have been switched to a different therapy after the scans anyway.  What started as "inklings" of changes that I could feel, is now, "yea, there's definitely something going on."  I can feel it in my bones (literally) in the form of pain and in the lungs in the form of breathing changes.  And some other stuff.  I know things.  I sometimes wish I didn't know my body so well.  It is really, REALLY hard to wait 3-4 weeks for scan results while feeling myself deteriorate.

Earlier this week, on Monday, I was so sick at my neurosurgeon appointment, that I had to reschedule my Gamma Knife procedure to next week.  It was a pretty miserable day, and I couldn't imagine going in to have Gamma Knife Radiosurgery while feeling like I did (nausea & vomiting all day.)  I did meet with the neurosurgeon, however, and he seemed competent and pleasant.  I admired his honesty in telling me about the worst part of the procedure:  the discomfort of the injection of the local anesthetic into the four places on the scalp where the wire frame will be screwed/secured into.  (My other doctors have totally downplayed it like it's really no big deal.)  Docs like to use the term "bee sting" to describe this sensation.  I've never had a bee sting, so I don't have that point of reference, but I have had local anesthetic before, and I recall it being unpleasant.  The idea of getting it four times into the head is unappealing, to say the least.  Hopefully I'll be adequately sedated which should "take the edge off" according to Dr. Neurosurgeon.  I also hope it helps me to not remember much of the procedure!

Soooo, next week, Gamma Knife (on Wednesday,) and the following week, scans on Tuesday then doc appointment for scan results on Thursday.  Nervous about it all, but ready to move on.

And believe it or not, I have intentionally left out many, many medical details because to be honest, I am tired of hearing myself talk about my own problems.  It's overwhelming to me, so I can imagine it might be to some of you, too.

Alrighty then, so, moving on.  Originally I thought this was not good, but right now it feels kinda sorta like a good thing that Summer is about over and the kids' schedules, and hence ours, are getting busy.  I have some events to look forward to and these motivate me to get out.  (But they also stress me out -- there is no pleasing me.)  Today we moved Christa into her dorm at U of H.  We live close enough to commute, but it's a tough commute for an inexperienced driver, plus she will be in the marching band which is very time-intensive, and lastly, she just plain wanted to live on campus (out of her parents' house!)  Here's a picture of us outside the U of H stadium.  Fun times ahead!
Tomorrow is David's first scrimmage as a freshman Mustang! High school football, people!  Can't believe my BABY will be in high school.  Looking forward to seeing him play, but honestly not so looking forward to going to tomorrow's event.  I'm expecting there to be quite a few moms there whom I know, and when you look like I look lately (like *#@!), you just don't want people to see you. No I'm serious.  It's embarrassing.  Shocking, even, for those who haven't seen me in awhile.  Planning to make little eye contact and keep to myself as much as possible.  Sad, isn't it?

Sighhhhhh ... Cancer, you suck!!!!