Thursday, February 19, 2015

Almost finished with radiation and so far so good

Today I completed the 18th of 20 radiation sessions. The next two are tomorrow (friday) and Monday at 4:30PM. Radiation has gone well - I had to depart work daily at 3 to get to Gainesville by 4:30 (the trip takes longer when you are going with rush hour). Some days when there was an accident or a pile up or a few construction issues on the road that was barely time enough. The last week has been interesting. We have had remarkable low temps for GA in mid February combined with rain on the first day of the cold snap. Fortunately GA state learned lessons from last year's major national news making traffic snafu so they began treating the roads the day before the freezing rain. Two days ago the drive to Gainesville was a bit concerning given it was grey and raining and the rain was freezing on the windshield, signs, trees and so on about as fast as it fell. But the roads remained clear and the traffic was much decreased (lots of places closed) so i got there and back with out problems. The past 2 days driving to and from Gainesville has been sort of like driving through a fairy land with all the trees and bushes coated with crystals that capture the sun and glimmer beautifully. Sort of like driving through rows of Christmas trees only decorated with crystals. Except for the cracked trunks and broken branches where the weight of the ice proved too much for the trees. But ignoring that... It is predicted to get even colder at night and tomorrow - so I am glad tomorrow is my last commute this week. Monday will be the last radiation treatment. I had blood drawn Wednesday this week and will do so again next week - probably Thursday. The outcome of those two blood draws as I understand it will determine when I begin chemo again. I also understand that I will have another CT scan after I complete radiation therapy, presumably looking for changes between when I started and now. Meanwhile last week I had my visit with the Urologist - who tells me that he sees these ureteral obstructions all the time in chemo patients, they cannot be cured by surgical intervention as my surgeon thought he had fixed it during surgery, they likely will get worse with chemo and almost certainly will get worse with radiation and wanted to know why i was not referred to a Urologist earlier. What can I say? I am scheduled to get a stent placed next Wednesday. It will be an outpatient proceedure but performed under general anesthesia. So since I can't drive home (or anywhere for 24 hours thereafter) I will have to recruit drivers. Or maybe I will take a taxi in early and just find someone to pick me up and bring me home afterward. That is the next problem to solve. I am hoping my cells counts are good on the blood draws coming up and I can start back on chemo a week from Monday. If so, I will complete the first of the remaining 3 3-week cycles just in time to head to Rhode Island for niece Louisa's wedding in late March. I decided to bite the bullet and RSVP'd yes, reserved a hotel room and made a plane reservation. But just in case I also purchased the travel insurance so i can get a partial refund if I have to back out at the last minute. So 2 more radiation sessions, another blood draw, a stent placement, probably a CT, and then back to chemo therapy to finish the course starting hopefully within the next 2 weeks.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

half way through radiation therapy more or less

Friday I completed #9 out of 20 radiation therapy sessions, making me nearly half way through. So far it is going OK. The 4:30 time spot requires me to leave work by 3 since I have to travel both directions with rush hour traffic. Some days there are pile ups on the interstate and I worry that I left too late. This is why I had requested a morning time slot when I met with the nurse, with the doctor, and again when I met with the techinition. But as seems to be the case with this practice, it made no difference with the scheduling. I had to schedule a urology appointment in Marietta before I knew the time for my appointments with radiation therapy, so I asked for the last time slot of the day since I assumed my Gainesville Radiation appointments would be in the morning. Unfortunately that turned out to directly conflict with my radiation therapy appointments. So when I arrived for the first appointment I asked to reschedule on that day only (which would be this Friday). I was told they could not provide such special treatment that it would be unfair to the other patients. Instead I had to wait until 2 days prior to that appointment to see if it was possible to switch to a morning spot on that day. Fortunatly my primary care doc got Tricare approval for a different Urologist associated with Emory and located in Atlanta and I was able to get that appointment for the first appointment of the day at 8 AM so it should be possible to also make the radiation therapy appointment that same day in Gainesville GA. My experience with this practice leaves me wondering how they could possibly think they are giving me special treatment to the extent that they are disadvantaging others. Fortunately during my daily appointments I just have to walk in, wait often for a very long time but then walk back and position myself on the machine, remove appropriate clothing and lie still for about 20 minutes. The only people I interact with are the technitians and with them only during the time they adjust my position on the machine to make sure things are lined up exactly. So far things are going smoothly. The only side effect has been mild colitis/ileitis leading to occasional rather urgent diarrhea. This tends to happen toward the end of the week and weekend but the 2 days off seem to give my gut recovery time. Just in case I acquired a supply of depends... makes me feel very old. BUt i assume this will get worse week by week but resolve once the treatment is over. I also can feel a bit of tenderness in the area where the radiation is directed, again most noticable on Friday and Saturday. That is not so uncomfortable (at least so far) as to induce use of pain meds, and is sort of comforting in that it assures me that something seems to be having some sort of effect. Hopfully the effect that we want. The fatigue is not too bad. I am able to work daily and am making progress on a book chapter I am supposed to produce by April 1. I do tend to lose concentrating ability about 2:30 every day so I save at least half an hour's worth of little tasks to address in the last half hour before I depart for Gainesville. And I tend to spend my Saturday's napping most of the day in front of the TV, but I did that when I was getting chemo, too, and my brain was less clear. So... Like the colitis, I have been warned this may get worse as the month goes on but so far so good. 9 session down, 11 to go. Then back to the last half of chemo.