Friday, September 9, 2016


In treating my cancer, the first step was Radiotherapy. Now as much as it sounds like listening to the radio, it is actually high energy waves (X-rays) that are used to treat brain tumors. This is because there is a blood brain barrier. Meaning that things in your bloodstream do not cross over into the brain. Medication that can help the tumors in other places in the body can't help brain tumors. So the best treatment is to radiate the brain.  This will cause the tumors to shrink and disappear. They use the CT scan to see the shape of the tumors. Then they look at the important structures in relationship to the tumor (eyes, ears etc.) They then can decide how to aim the radiation beams so that they avoid those structures. "They give a high radiotherapy dose to the cancer cells and keep the dose to normal brain tissue as low a possible.  They may use radiotherapy beams from a number of different angles.  The highest dose is given where all beams cross." (2015 about brain tumor radiotherapy)

In order to give an exact treatment, and to protect the important structures in my head, they made a mold of me.  They do this by heating up plastic and covering my face, (they cut out a nose and mouth hole) and shaping it around my head. After they have it all shaped (and it is tight fitting) they cool it down with ice packs so it goes back to hard plastic. The mask, when worn, is clamped to the table so that I cannot move and the treatment happens exactly where I need it. They make marks on the mask to line up with the radiotherapy machine so it is extremely precise.  Here are the pictures of my mask. 

The extra space is because there was a neck placement on the table to hold the curvature correctly. 

The space on both sides that was open was to pull my hair back in pigtails. It was quite the fashion statement

The clamps they used to pin me to the table so that I could not move
Every time I went in for therapy, they clamped me to the table.  The machine (and this is the actual one I was on - they let me take pictures) looks like this:

The neck piece is not placed on there yet, and the blue is where my legs go.  Technically the machine is a relativistic particle cannon. Sadly most people don't know it by this name. In the hospital it is called a linear accelerator (LINAC) radiotherapy machine.  The machine can move around in an arc so that the treatment can come from different directions.  In fact for part of mine they actually moved the couch as well as the arc of the machine. Every day when I was finished and they unclamped me I would say " We'll see you tomorrow for more fun and games." It's a good thing I am not claustrophobic, and having my head pinned down tight wasn't an issue for me. 

One of the side effects of having your whole head radiated is hair loss. As we came up on the end of treatment, I would brush my hair and it would come out in handfuls. I decided Monday not to brush it because I had one last treatment and I need the pigtails so that the mask fit correctly.  After treatment, we decided to see how much would fall out.  My kids (the two that are here) started brushing it, and well, most of it came out. 

Here is what was left of my hair:

The rest had bald spots and looked, well sad.  

Because I knew that the rest will fall out in the next two weeks, and because it will take 3 to 6 months to grow back - hopefully - it was decided that I just needed to shave my head.  My son, bless him, decided that whatever we needed to do to my hair, he would do to his.  

As much as I like the bald look... I prefer to play with hats and scarves. So much variety!  

So now you know more than you would like about relativistic particle cannons and how to treat brain tumors.  The good news is that all of the radiotherapists are confident in my treatment and the ability to shrink/eradicate the brain tumors so I can function normally.  So far, as we are weaning me off of the steroids, everything seems to be great.  Time will tell how well it worked, and they will redo my CT scan in a couple of months.  I'm confident that this will work.  If nothing else, because I'm stubborn, strong, and have faith. I'm too ornery to let this get the best of me.


  1. Lots of hugs from me, you are my hero! No coincidence that you were in the perfect place to deal with this. Love you. Keep castle hopping so fun.

  2. :) I'm always looking for best wish and lucks! Everything will be just fine. hehe. Wish I could be there with Chris and Naomi ;)