28. Re-entering Cancerland...Second Stop: Radiation Doctor
On Tuesday, following my appointments with the medical oncologist and having my expanders filled, I called to see if there had been a cancellation in the schedule of my radiation oncologist. (I figured I might as well get ALL the information at the same time, so I could have an overall picture of what we were looking at.) Luckily for me, I managed to grab a currently opened slot.
The radiation oncologist requires a trip to the the bowels of the hospital. (I think they might put them down there in case there’s some gamma ray leak, making the UNDEAD zombie hordes easier to manage… but I’m not sure.)
This whole process has given me quite the tour of the UCLA Medical Center in Westwood. It’s the perfect setting for a “heist” movie. When you have to go under the building there are legitimate tunnels, that are reserved for “personnel only”.
I had been to level B2 before my surgery when they put radioactive iodine in to trace my lymph nodes. Turns out there are two wings of B2 and they don’t connect underground you have to get there if you are a normal human by taking the correct elevator. SO I ended up retracing my steps to the entrance and taking a left where I had taken a right.
The medical assistant escorted us in, and, after taking my vitals - they always take your vitals- played an informational video to tell us about radiation. I have to hand it to UCLA Medical, they make a point of trying to make their patients as informed as possible. While I turn into a bit of a science nerd when this stuff comes up, having these videos simplify everything, probably makes nervous patients feel a lot better.
When the video finally finished , my radiation oncologist, Dr B and his residents entered. He said hello and introduced his residents. His pretty, too-young residents. Honestly, I couldn’t help myself.
“OMG ! We ARE in GREY’S ANATOMY!”
Dr B. looked confused. I explained since my Thyroid surgery, being treated at UCLA has been a bit like being on a TV show. Our cast of doctors being stupidly good looking, attentive, confident, you know, Grey’s Freakin’ Anatomy!
Dr. B. laughed, the residents got a little flushed and we started talking about radiation and why it was needed.
Unlike chemo which is systemic - aka “We Blast Your Whole System to find any Micro Cancer Cells that may be Hiding” - radiation is targeted to the area where the cancer was removed
UCLA does incredibly specific radiation as to hit only the areas needed.
Doing so reduces the chance of reoccurrence by 75%.
Treatment would be a month following the end of chemo, 5 days a week for 5 weeks, the sessions taking anywhere from 15-60 minutes.
So we were looking at another seven months!
It made perfect sense, in light of all the news I had already received. However, the thing that took up the most time was my grilling them on the effects radiation could have on the skin of my newly constructed breasts. (As I said before I’m allowed a teensy bit of vanity here, and my plastic surgeon Dr D. is from, all accounts, an “artiste”. Why not give him the best canvas possible?)
Dr. B took my questions in stride, as he tossed off the questions to his residents, chiding them when they didn’t know the answer right away, but encouraging them at the same time. Just like Dr Webber on GREYS ! So how bad would the radiation be on my skin?
WE DON’T KNOW.
Much like people tolerating chemo differently, the overall affects on the skin vary, depending on your age and the health of your dermis. I was guaranteed there would be a “PINKENING” of the area, thanks to my fair complexion, but it would most likely go away.
Like a sunburn, they said.
Dr. B. also gave me a referral for a PETSCAN prior to starting chemo to insure I am not, as my husband likes to say, “a tumor farm.”
So there we were, Petscan to come, waiting for the “PINKENING”!
Like “The Conjuring” only Pinker and less demony.