April 26, 2011
Today was a full day at Kaiser. The morning was spent at the cancer center with my radiation oncologist, then later getting a TB test and lab work. Lots of time waiting around for the lab work. The morning appointment was for my radiation “simulation”. This is when they do all of the measurements necessary to program the computer that guides the radiation machine.
The first thing they did was create a mold of the inside of my mouth using this putty-like substance that hardens very quickly. They create an approximation of the inside of the mouth and then stick this putty, which is on the end of a large tongue depressor, into my mouth. I bite down on it and it forms itself to the inside. This will be used during the radiation procedure to help minimize the damage the radiation does to the glands in my mouth.
Once the mold was made, they placed me into a CT machine and did some precise measurements. I had to keep very still through the whole process, which lasted thirty minutes or more. To help with the positioning, they put marks on my face with a sharpie. Finally I was positioned properly. The next step was to create the mask that would hold me in that position (see picture). This was some sort of flexible material that when heated, became pliable. Still with the mold in my mouth (I could only breath through my nose since my mouth was blocked), they pushed this mask material onto my face.
After the mask completely covered my face, they bolted it down to the table I was laying on. They had to do this twice because the first mask they used did not mold itself properly. Luckily the second mask worked because by that time I was ready to freak out from the claustrophobic feelings I was having. Being bolted down to a table with your mouth full of putty and only being able to breathe through your nose is not the greatest feeling. With the second mask on properly, they did all of their final measurements, plus a CT scan and then released me from the prison.
The actual radiation treatments start May 9. I will have chemotherapy in the morning and then go for radiation immediately after. This mask will be used in each of the radiation treatments. It is important that they position me exactly the same each time so the computer can accurately guide the machine to give the radiation only where it’s needed.
After the measurement session, I met with the radiation nurse so she could again go over all of the side effects that I will experience. This is the scariest part for me I think because between the radiation and chemotherapy, there are many things that can happen to my body that either will be painful or put me at risk for other problems, like serious infections. I’ll be asking for your prayers during that time to keep my body as healthy and pain free as possible.
Praise the lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases. – Psalm 103:2-3