Saturday, March 15, 2008

Fried brains, anyone?

I met with a radiation oncologist 2 days ago to see what could be done for the 4 tumors they found in my brain. My hope was to be able to have them individually "zapped", thereby sparing the rest of my brain from unnecessary radiation exposure. This is what made sense to my uneducated mind. What I learned is that the process to do pinpoint radiation is somewhat "barbaric" (a word the doctor himself used to describe it). A neurosurgeon drills holes into your head in order for a halo-type structure to be attached to it. The surgery is so exact that there can be NO movement. The more tumors you have, the longer the time that you will be immobilized. Since there are already 4 known tumors in my brain, the doctor suggested that it is likely that they could find more when a better, precise MRI would be done a day or two before treatment. That would mean possible immobilization all day long. But the main concern is not immobilization but effectiveness of treatment.

The doctor was quite clear that in his opinion the best course of treatment in my particular case would be whole brain radiation. It's when they give you a small dose of radiation over a period of time. In my case, 15 doses spread over 3 weeks. The side effects are hair loss - darn, it was just growing back - skin dryness, nausea, fatigue and cognitive issues such as memory loss and difficulty concentrating. I hate the sound of all this but it seems to be the lesser of evils. The doctor stated that I was fortunate so far in that I don't have any symptoms - headaches, dizziness, imbalance, etc - but said if tumors developed in my speech center, I could wake up one day and not be able to speak. Currently, the largest tumor is in my coordination center.

This has been a difficult decision to come to. I explained to the doctor that I didn't want to have radiation, then my life sucks, and I die anyway. He assured me that although he cannot make any guarantees, he did not believe this would decrease my quality of life but he did believe it could extend it and mentioned a couple of cases who are still alive today many years after treatment.

Because I've been taking an oral chemo drug which enhances the effects of radiation, I was instructed to stop taking it and then wait a week to allow the drug to get out of my system. My treatments are scheduled to start Monday, March 24.

Our friends from church, Jeff & Lecia, took me to a healing /prayer/worship service this week which was very uplifting. I love being prayed for and continue to pray in this direction.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting these updates. Your courage, grace, and humor is remarkable. And I'm sure that everyone who knows you will say that they've always noticed your halo.

Heidi Pender said...

Yvonne--just wanted to let you know I'll be praying for you as you start radiation tomorrow morning. Heidi