Over half the people being treated for cancer in the U.S. undergo radiation and on Monday I will join their ranks. While my surgery successfully removed the tumor, there was some indication the cancer might be tracking along a nerve. If microscopic cancer cells are left behind, they could start growing again.
I was reluctant to undergo radiation but my research has convinced me to proceed. Squamous cell is a “treatment resistant” carcinoma so I need all the available tools to fight it. The particular type of radiation I will be getting is called Tomo Therapy; more details to come in a later post.
The process started last Friday with the making of a cast for me to lie in. This ensures I’ll be in the same position for every treatment. A mask was also made to hold my head still while I get shot in the face and neck with high energy particle beams.
The hardest thing to wrap my mind around is the number of treatments—33! I have to go in Monday through Friday for almost seven weeks. The sessions only last 15 minutes but the affects are cumulative. Side effects include:
- skin damage, hair loss
- dry mouth, painful swallowing, loss of taste
- possible atherosclerosis of blood vessels
- staying alive
Unlike chemotherapy, what radiation kills stays dead, which is one reason for my reluctance. But the ability to target a specific area and minimize peripheral damage is fairly good with Tomo Therapy.
Radiation is another of those experiences not on my Bucket List, but here it is, demanding face time (sic). How’s my psyche doing with this latest challenge? I’m adjusting.