Friday, December 23, 2005

An Unwanted Journey: Day 0029 - Radiation Oncology

I coached his son and my son in basketball two years ago. As soon as the radiation oncologist walked into the consultation room to join my wife and me, we both recognized each other but couldn’t quite recall the connection until a little later when my wife broke the ice and asked about a few possibilities. We settled on basketball almost immediately. It feels good to know that my radiation oncologist has a personal connection with my family, even though it’s somewhat tenuous.

Today, as you may have figured out by now, we went to the Grand River Regional Cancer Centre where we reviewed how the radiation therapy would be conducted. I’ll go back to the centre in the first week of January for a simulation session in which we use a CT scan reserved just for the radiation oncology team. During that session, we will discover exactly how I will be positioned for a course of 28 fractions of radiation therapy. Permanent tattoos in the form of small, bluish dots will “mark the spot” to guide subsequent radiation therapists as they set me up for the daily, Monday-to-Friday sessions beginning January 9th for a little over 5 weeks. After that, I will have about a 6-week break to recover, followed by surgery.

We talked about side effects, the purpose of the therapy (reduce the tumour for excision and to make possible a low anterior resection), how I might feel, and how the chemotherapy side effects might interact with the radiation therapy side effects. To make it short and sweet, there may be about 3 weeks in which the side effects of radiotherapy will grow increasingly worse, followed by another 3 weeks after the treatments have stopped when I will gradually feel better. That will be followed by a 2-week period that we’re calling the “honeymoon” when I shouldn’t feel too bad at all – then, it’s surgery.

There will be some damage to the skin in the pelvis, some possible inflammation of the bladder and prostate, and probably a fair amount of fatigue. It may even be that I won’t be able to work for a few weeks prior to surgery.

Before the consultation, I went to medical imaging for some chest X-rays. After the consultation, we met with a volunteer to get enrolled in an orientation session called “Feeling Your Best During Cancer Therapy” for next Friday about coping with chemotherapy.

We also picked up an Outpatient Oncology parking permit and got our instructions and activation key for the online My CARE Source. Back at home, after activating my site, I was pleased to see a discussion board, web links, a place to store questions, as well as a my health area where I could document all of the following:
  • My Conditions

  • My Treatment

  • My Side Effects and Self Monitoring

  • My Appointments

  • My Medications

  • My Care Team

  • My Diary

  • My Profile

  • My Community Resources

  • My Education

I am really impressed with what I’ve seen of the GRRCC and its team members. And they’re all working for me!

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