Friday, November 27, 2009

Borrowed Hair

Genet let me borrow her hair to cover my "baldy" head. Since the hair fell out on the left side, I decided to buzz the rest off. Marcie did a great job with the cutting. First time I have ever shaved my head. My head is getting kind of cold though.

BTW Today was radiation treatment 20. Only 10 more to go! Still feel pretty good. Naps are very good in the afternoon. I highly recommend them for anyone. Make sure you find a secluded place. My nap was ended abruptly yesterday on Thanksgiving by a gang of nerf-armed boys firing from point blank range.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Halfway and half days of work

Today was my 15th radiation treatment out of 30. Still feeling really good but my hair is abandoning me. I feel like I've got the mange. Time to go buy a good set of clippers to even it out.

Close call for Saba the cat. She almost got banished to Grandma's in St. Louis because I thought her fur was really irritating my left eye. Turns out a tear gland is "stunned" from the radiation and is not producing enough tears so my eye is constantly dry and itchy. The Doc said just use some Visine to clear it up. You got lucky, Saba.

More importantly, I was finally able to get the clearance to go back to work teaching US History to the eighth graders at St. Ambrose. I am so pleased to be working with the kids again! Amara and Carrie go to school at St. Ambrose so I get to see them everyday, also. I am only working to lunchtime when I skedaddle and catch the Metro to NIH for my daily date with the lovely radiation techs. They are really wonderful people and have been taking good care of me.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A good but busy week

4 radiation treatments. (11 of 30 now complete)
Oncologist appointment
Orthopedist appointment
2 Physical Therapy appointments (for achilles tendon)
One blood draw
H1N1 shot

Good news: No more "boot" for my right achilles tendon. It is strong enough to wear normal shoes. The doctor also said in Marcie's presence that I am permitted to return to riding my bike outside! No running for three months though (not a big loss).

More good news: Weekly blood tests show red blood cell count is normal (meaning that the chemo is not throwing my system out of whack) . Oncologist says don't come back to see him until just before Christmas. Orthopedist says just don't come back to see him at all (unless I hurt myself again.)

More good news: hair is still holding on to my head for dear life. Actually felt better this week than last. Last week I was very drowsy every afternoon. We are now chalking it up to the earlier sunset after daylight savings time.

Bad news: Took the girls for flu shots. Let's just say it was not a quiet session with the nurse.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Family Trip to the NIH

Me: Carrie, will you go on my appointment with me?
Carrie: No, thanks.
Me: They will give you M&Ms.
Carrie: I'll go!

Carrie and Amara had the day off from school so we took them to the Rad oncology lab at NIH to see what I am doing each day. They had fun. They colored and played in the children's corner of the waiting room. They were able to go in the radiation room and see the laser beams that center me on the table. They also saw all of the equipment and they saw me in my mask on the table. Carrie was really fascinated by all of the equipment and moved around the room to get a good look at everything. She wants to come with me to all of my treatments!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Carrie was so excited about my costume possibilities after my surgery. She convinced us that my scars would be perfect to make me Frankenstein's monster. Carrie would be Dr. Frankenstein and Marcie would be the Bride. Marcie did a great job with the make-up highlighting the scar on my forehead and by my ear. Amara and Genet could not be convinced to be mini-brides or Igor. They were an angel and a fairy. (double click the photo to see it bigger)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

I am radioactive! (2 treatments down, 28 to go)

(Pictures: Radiation lab at NIH. That's me bolted to the table to prevent movement. Green lasers guarantee my skull is lined up properly. Mask was formed to fit the contours of my face.)
This past week I began my chemotherapy and radiation therapy. This will be a six week program.
The chemotherapy is pretty simple. Each day I will take one chemotherapy pill before bed. There is a chance of nausea so I am taking an anti-nausea med also each night. So far I have not experienced any nausea or ill-effects (just a metallic after-taste). Most patients who take this chemo med do not get nauseous.

Five days a week I will travel to NIH for a brief radiation treatment. Visits last about 30 minutes. They are going to try to schedule them for the afternoons which will allow me to work each morning.

The radiation treatments are fascinating. The first step was fitting me with a mask that will be placed over my face and bolted to the table. This will prevent me from moving during the "zapping". The mask was formed by pressing a warmed, pliable plastic mesh over my face. It formed to the contours of my face and hardened as it cooled. (That's my mask in the pictures; I get to keep it at the end of treatment!)

The radiation room has lasers mounted on the walls and ceiling which ensure that my head is in the proper postion by lining up with hash marks on the mask. (See pics above from my first treatment.) Once I am in position the actual exposure to radiation lasts less than 2 minutes. The radiation beams target the tumor from multiple positions but expose healthy tissue as little as possible. There is a chance I will lose hair where the radiation enters and exits the skull. I do not feel anything as the beams are being shot. The machine makes a buzz like a Dental x-ray machine. It would be more fun if they had a better sound effect like a Star Wars laser or a light saber. After a couple of minutes, the mask is unbolted and I am free to go home.

NIH is easy to get to by Metro on the Red Line which has a stop right at the gate to NIH or I can spend an hour in traffic on the Beltway, ugh.

Happy Movember!
A fun Moustache growing competition to sponsor Prostate Cancer awareness in cooperation with Livestrong.