I’m leaving Houston after my first in person appointment with my Doctor at MD Anderson, not radioactive yet, but will be next week upon my seven-week treatment plan starting August 13.
“Radiation Camp” as I’m calling it will begin next Monday (have to put some humor in a not so humorous situation)
I have had several doctors read all of my pathology reports. We have explored many options in my treatment plan with experts in their respected fields. Without going into too many details of my exact pathology report, the way the cancer spread throughout my breast and my margins being where they were, makes for a debatable area of concern if this cancer strain will come back. Those are words NOBODY ever wants to hear once and I can’t even fathom him hearing it twice!
As a patient and being my best advocate, this journey has lead me to focus on going to MD Anderson in Houston, Texas. Here, I came across Dr. Benjamin Smith whose sole focus is breast cancer radiation. He was the expert I was looking for, someone who has extensive research on someone my age with the type of cancer I had. After weeks of several opinions and traveling to numerous facilities in Florida, I was eager to get to MD Anderson and meet with this world renown doctor (Google him).
You know how they say, “Everything Is Bigger in Texas?” Well, when it comes to MD Anderson BIG would not even cover the size of this world class medical center. It is extremely overwhelming in the middle of a bustling city with hospital after hospital specializing in everything you can think of. Not only is this hospital filled with employees that hold southern hospitality in the highest regard, there are golf carts transporting you from center to center, residential living areas, shops, a medical wellness center, kids arcade, Starbucks (of course) and several restaurants!
Upon arrival I was greeted by Ivette, a patient coordinator. Talk about energy that can radiate through your body!!!!! It was 8 am and all of the sudden I heard, “HELLO AMAZING! I’m Ivette and I’m going to register you today. I first must tell you how strong and amazing you look with your hair like that. I can tell you… you’re going to be just great after all this!” Her energy was more than contagious. She shared with me that after 18 years at this hospital she is retiring this May. She hopes to spend a lot of time dancing and working with four-year-old children in her spare time. I write about her because she is another soul I met on this journey that within a few short minutes she will never understand the impact she made in my life. I smile while writing this about her because she really was the amazing one and I just love that spiritual connection we had.
After two hours of meeting with the doctors and nurses, the best decision was made to go forward with a seven-week radiation treatment plan to lower my chances of re-occurrence of breast cancer to 1%-3%. Because of the way the cancer spread throughout my breast it’s to hard to tell whether all the cancer was removed during my mastectomy. This radiation plan will eliminate any small cells that are still lingering around after my chemotherapy treatment and targeting to areas to the multi- focal tumors that were found.
Following this appointment, I had a one hour simulation planning session. Here they go through the process of marking me where the laser will be pointed and what is expected of me.
Here is what to expect during this simulation:
- Take off your shirt and put the gown open to the back
- Lay down in a CAT scan machine where the doctor will adjust your arms over your head and move your head to be positioned in ways he will be able to line up the radiation lasers
- Stay still for 45 minutes in this position
- Once positioned correctly the radiation oncologist and team with mark your spots and tick tack toe your skin with permanent markers
- Spend twenty minutes in machine while they set up all lasers and mark pre-radiation treatment
- Set up your breath hold patterns using high technology glasses to ensure you are consistent with your breathing
- When leaving appointment, you will have marks and tape all over the radiated areas
- You will leave with extra Sharpies in case the marks fade for some reason
- Don’t forget to leave with proper skin care products
I’m going home with red, green and blue marker lines. Who wants to play Tic – Tac- Toe?
Some of my recommended questions to share for anyone that may need radiation:
- How will you protect my heart and lungs?
- What is my survival rate if I go with radiation treatment?
- Do you do breatholds?
- Who will be marking me for radiation?
- What do you recommend for skin care routine for treated areas?
- Am I qualified for any studies?
- If you were me would you do radiation?
- Long term health issues?
While I will be in Texas being treated, away from my children, husband, family and friends, Dr. Smith put me at more ease than I really had ever expected. Not only was he genuinely interested in my case and my future treatment plan, he was genuine in the way he way he wanted to know about my children. He was genuine in his suggestion of Face Timing my husband at every appointment. More than anything, he was genuine in the way that he had my best interest of being a breast cancer survivor!
He left and said to me, “It is an honor for me to be your doctor.” Now, if this doesn’t warm y’alls heart I don’t know what will.
I’m headed back to Florida for the week while I take in my children’s sweet hugs and kisses, prepare a first time Kindergarten off to school and preparing to leave them home with Mr. Mom, to start my radiation camp.
Seven weeks for 70 more years is worth it in my book! Please keep my family and I in your prayers once again.