(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.