It’s no secret that I’m an impatient lil lady. I’m definitely eager to finish all my treatments and put all this cancer stuff behind me. Monday afternoon, I met with my radiation oncologist, Dr. Koprowski, to get started with and discuss this final phase.
Bri was hoping to join me, but he just could not get out of a work planning session, so we had to call in the reinforcements for the appointment. One thing I have learned in the last 6 months is that when people offer to help out, take them up on their offers.
Prior to my appointment with Dr. Koprowski, I met with my genetic counselor to sign consent forms for my test for Li-Fraumeni Syndrome. Then we walked to the lab and I had blood drawn to complete the test. I must say that I am getting much better with needles, but it was hot in the lab and I was sweating. Yuck. My results should be back in 2 – 4 weeks.
I met Jen and Russ in the lobby at the cancer center and we made our way to meet with Dr. Koprowski. I was brought back into the examining room and a nurse, Karen, took my temperature and blood pressure. My first reading was 99.9 and a BP of 98/68. Whoa – high temp and low BP. So, Karen did a second reading and I was at 100.2 and 100/68. Hmm – I felt perfectly fine. I’m supposed to report body temps of 100.5 or higher to the nurse with my medical oncologist. So, Karen decided to call Dr. Biggs’ nurses just to report it and she told me to drink fluids. No problem.
Then Dr.Koprowski came in and we discussed my radiation treatment. The plan is, I’m going to get zapped 35 times! 25 times to the entire breast and 10 times locally to the specific area where the tumor was. I will have to go in for treatments 5x a week for 7 weeks. I think the doctor laughed at me when I expressed interest to start radiation ASAP and he made a point of saying that its only been 11 days since I completed chemo. My first treatment is scheduled for May 31.
Side effects? The area that they zap will get dry, irritated (mostly like a sunburn) and inflamed. It may become uncomfortable, so it might hurt where my bra touches my skin. I’ll probably also be tired, but Dr. Koprowski said he can prescribe stimulants (Ritalin). No thank you. After my introduction to steroids, I am not going there again. I think I’ll just suck it up and deal with the tiredness. And everyone keeps telling me that radiation is a walk in the park compared to chemo!
I asked Dr. Koprowski if there is anything that I could do or shouldn’t do to help make radiation go better. His face lit up and he smiled as he told me that there’s definitely something I could do – participate in a clinical study! Ha, there’s always a catch. Well, after he explained it, it doesn’t sound that bad. Basically, researchers believe that curry is believed to help skin irritations brought on by radiation treatments. So, patients participating in the study will either be given concentrated doses of curry in pill form or a placebo pill. They’ll then be monitored and asked to fill out surveys. So, I’m not sure if I’m going to participate or not. I know it sounds silly, but there’s only one thing holding me back – scheduling another blood draw. My schedule is crazy and I’m just not sure I can make it back to the cancer center next week. We’ll see.
So, what else? Well, I have to switch to a deodorant without aluminum – my mom will be happy about that since she believes that using deodorant with aluminum leads to Alzheimer’s. I also have to switch to mild non-scented soaps and can’t put any lotions on the area being treated. Okay, easy enough. The hard part? When my skin is inflamed, I cannot go swimming in chlorinated pools or the ocean. What! Summer is right around the corner. News like this made me sad, but at least I can go in up to my waist.
After I was done with Dr. Koprowski, Kathy (one of the therapists) took me back for my CT scan and markings. Funny side story: I had on a gown from the waist up, but never tied it. As I was walking out of the exam room, I didn’t realize that the gown had opened (I never tied it) and I may have flashed some people. The nurse laughed and had to remind me that there are male patients in their office. Oops.
The CT scan records images of my breast that will be treated. Dr. Koprowski along with a team of physicists and really smart people will then design my treatment plan using the images from the CT. The images will help the team determine where the radiation enters my body, so I have minimal exposure to the surrounding normal tissue and to ensure I receive a precise dose (not too much/too little).
I also got my first tattoo yesterday. Actually, I now have 3 tattoos (my markings) – they are so tiny that they just look like dark freckles. All three are under my chest on my stomach: 1 on each side and 1 in the middle. The markings will help the radiation therapists make sure I’m lined up in the same exact position each day. I think that I’ll eventually get another marking on my breast when they switch to the localized zaps.
All in all, it was not a bad appointment. I really like Dr. Koprowski, his sense of humor, and his staff. Despite his credentials and position, he just seems like a normal person and not a snooty doctor. I have another appointment with his office on May 27 to go over my films and the “plan” and then my first treatment will be the day after Memorial Day.