Saturday, April 16, 2011

Photons AND electrons

Before I tell you about my special radiation treatment that will begin on Monday, I want to update you on my hair growth.  This is something that many folks have been asking about.  I myself have been trying to ignore it because just as a watched pot never boils, a watched follicle never grows.  In other words, my hair growth is impressive to those that only see it once a week, but it seems dreadfully slow to me.  The good news is that it is long enough and my cowlick is severe enough that it's starting to lay down already.  Exhibit A:
Can you see the hair drifting to page left?  I don't think all of the follicles are firing yet, but the hair that is growing has a nice color.  Also, muchisimos gracias to Heather V-D for the new fancy robe that I'm sporting in the pic, aka right now, and for the chocolate in my belly.  Best care package ever.  

My radiation treatment is going to get a bit more complicated on Monday.  With the first real radiation treatment on Wednesday, one of the technicians drew the radiation field with a marker on my chest.  I have no idea why she did that, but it was great because this was the first time that I had a chance to see what the heck is getting radiated.  It's a huge area, but not huge enough.  It leaves out about two inches of my sternum-proximal incision, which out of principle is no big deal, but I happen to know that before chemotherapy there was a cancer-related rashy thing over there.  It took a bit of back-and-forth with Dr. Radiologist, but one of the technicians and I convinced him that it was important to treat that area.  I'm not trying to say that he didn't want to treat a place that used to have cancer.  What I mean is that 1) based on my chart his planned radiation therapy was perfectly targeting every place of documented cancer, and 2) his planned radiation therapy is perfectly avoiding my heart.  I had to whip out my right breast and show him exactly what the left breast looked like before chemotherapy to sufficiently explain to him that it's possible that the normal photon radiation could be missing a formerly cancerous region.  I told him that the chemotherapy eliminated the rashy sign of cancer, so I didn't mind not radiating that spot as long as it was medically unnecessary.  I also told him that since the mastectomy I actually have no idea where that portion of skin is now located, or if it's even still attached to me.  He said that he'd like to treat all of the skin that used to show cancer, he just didn't know there used to be cancer in that area.  It's a good thing I'm paying attention!  

Now that we were all on the same page, he and his crew spent Thursday and Friday developing a radiation therapy for that region.  They didn't want to adjust the regular, photon-based radiation because again, my heart is right beneath the former rashy spot.  Instead they are going to treat that region with electron radation.  Electrons don't penetrate the body as deeply as photons do, so the idea is that electron therapy for this above-the-sternum skin won't damage my heart.  The bad news is that electron therapy will make my skin angrier than the regular photon therapy.  The plan is therefore to pursue the electron therapy only until the skin gets good and red, which is a situation in which putative cancer cells are killed, and then we'll cease the electron therapy.  Sounds good to me.

My goodness it's hard to communicate with doctors sometimes, and I'm a doctor (of sorts) myself.              

Finally, I added a picture of our owl to the tats and zaps and hoots post.  I haven't seen the owl in a couple of days, but I've heard it in the neighborhood.  Hopefully it hasn't left us for good.


  1. Heather, I would refer to your fuzz as positively luxurious. Glad you are paying attention and demanding the treatment you need!

  2. I love the picture, Heather! You look beautiful. Enjoy the soft fuzz while you look forward to many stages growing-out cuteness.

    I'm glad you got through to the doctors. I admire your assertiveness. Its so important!

  3. You look smashing sporting the new hair. Just think those ladies will be brushing it and putting stylish accoutrements in it before you know it! If you are impatient you can always sick a bow to your head with scotch tape!
    You are rockin' it.

  4. Thinking of you on new electron radiation day.

  5. An interesting, very short article on Il-25....


  7. Very cool article, rswebscan! Looks like an exciting new development for breast cancer therapy.