Yesterday was the first day of radiation to my neck area. As I arrived with my dad it felt familiar; kind of like it was the first day of a summer camp I had already been to. The difference was that thoughts of, "Will they like me? and "Will I make new friends?" were replaced with thoughts of, "Will I have my same radiation technician?" and "Who will I meet this second time around?" The truth is I never really liked summer camp. It didn't matter how nice the counselors were or how friendly the campers seemed; I always felt like I didn't belong. I think some of those same feelings apply to round two of radiation. I don't want to be there and even though I'm familiar with the people, process, and procedures, I still feel like an outsider. I would imagine that everyone feels somewhat like me at a radiation clinic. Perhaps that's a very healthy reaction. My mind is telling me to not get too comfortable because I won't be in this situation for long. Perhaps I'm just rationalizing my discomfort.
Looking back at my first radiation session seems like night and day in comparison to this time around. I had no idea what to expect. I was fascinated by the room and the machine that is used for administering the treatment. I called the blog, "Radiation Magic" and compared the experience to Disney World. This time around I feel like I just want to get off the roller coaster. The "magic" is not only gone, it has been replaced with fear. That's the beauty of ignorance; it truly is bliss.
I met with the doctor before going in for my first treatment. He explained to me all the risks associated with this round of radiation (which are greater than the first time around), he showed me the plan he had made and then compared it to the previous round. I remained cool, calm, and collected on the outside but on the inside I felt like I had been locked in a room with no doors. Of course there is a door. I don't have to go through any of this. I can simply refuse treatment and let my tumor do what it will. The trouble is that this path only leads to another room with no doors. I feel stuck and out of control. If you know me, you know that 'out of control' is way out of my comfort zone.
Luckily I do have the same wonderful technicians and of course my doctor (Dr. Teddy Bear) was as pleasant and wonderful as always. He scared the crap out of me but he did it as nicely and gently as he could. He said that my tumor is acting "un-glomus like" (my diagnosis is a-typical glomus tumor). Also the radiation area this time around is much larger than it was the last time. The major risks all have to do with trouble eating, swallowing, producing saliva, and movement of my jaw. I had all of these issues during round 1 and they were thought to be unusual then. This time, they are what is expected. I dropped 20 pounds (basically all of my muscle mass and then some) during radiation my last round or more accurately it was after my treatment had finished. I can't afford to have that happen this time around. I've gained about 5 pounds back and will be doing all I can to gain some more weight in the coming weeks. If I don't, and I experience similar issues, I will require a feeding tube - something I would like to avoid at all costs.
The actual radiation session is much shorter this time (around 5 mintues). I have to lie on a table, with my new face mask that covers all of my head and shoulders, and extend my neck all the way back. It is somewhat uncomfortable but for 5 minutes it is very tolerable. I still get to look up at the same beautiful ceiling with the sky and the fiber optic stars while the background music plays. I will still be imagining little soldiers coming in to attack and kill my tumor.
I also still have a fighting attitude. I still choose to look on the bright side of things and bring a positive attitude to my life. I accept the challenge of this round of treatment and will do all I can to bring positivity and joy into my life. I am also somewhat optimistic because I am armed with better medications now. My team of doctors has also grown and we have gained new insights on how this tumor acts and reacts helping us to combat some of the side effects produced. What's really changed this time around is that I kind of know what I can expect. It's not fun and the thought of going through it all over again is very frightening. But the only way out, is through. So ready or not, here I go.