Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Maskmaker, Maskmaker, make me a mask....

Today I went down to the new-ish radiation center in South City to have a mask made for my upcoming treatment. The two technicians who were in charge of making the mask were pretty entertaining. I mentioned to them that I had been told by the doctor that I was going to have a few spots tattooed on my face and the back of my head for alignment of the radiation. They said that they weren't actually inking my face, since the mask is sufficient for alignment. But if I'm a big fan of Mike Tyson, Dave (one of the technicians) is quite good at inking, and we can talk after the treatment. I told them I was a little disappointed since I thought they were going to ink a snake around my neck.

The mask formation was pretty relaxing as they molded the gridded strips to my face while taking a CAT scan. The next step is to align the image of the CAT scan with the original MRI to map out the spots where they will aim the radiation during my treatment. In order for the mask to stay tight and accurate, I had to shave the beard I'd grown post surgery, much to the pleasure of my mom. I was also told that I shouldn't shave my head since the hair I have now will help maintain the tension of the mask. Now that the mask has been made, I am scheduled to begin treatment in one week!

After the mask making, I spoke briefly with the nurse and doctor in charge of my initial treatment. The doctor is "old school" and mentioned again that he was going to put me on high doses of steroids during the treatment in order to keep the brain swelling down. While one of the side-effects of steroids is becoming the Caleefwonyuh governor, the other effects abused me post-surgery in a rough way. So I had to plant my feet and tell him that other doctors had told me it wasn't necessary and we could wait and see if the swelling occurs before starting the steroids. He finally agreed that since the gap left by the scooped part of the tumor is kinda large, it can probably handle any swelling in the brain. And incidentally, since that "hole" is so big, I'm thinking that after the treatment I might try filling it with gumballs and charging $0.25 each. Still working on the delivery details....

I then spoke with them about the treatment and how to best take care of myself while it was happening. The nurse suggested certain creams to treat my skin from being too fried by the radiation. We also heard some interesting news about how large my tumor might have been, and how much remained. It seemed like the doctor thought that much of the size of the object seen in the original MRI was due to a large cyst, and that part of the visible mass was due to dead cells. He seemed to indicate that a large portion of the tumor was removed from surgery. The hope is that the remaining gumball bowl will shrink over the next five weeks, so that when the radiation treatment changes from a wide field attack to a more focused "smart bomb", the area of the target will be smaller. In order to see if that is the case, I've been scheduled for another MRI measurement after the first 4 weeks of treatment. Fingers still crossed.

I also found out recently that the cells from my tumor were not sensitive to Tarceva, which means I will not be taking that extra chemo. That is a somewhat mixed result for me. The plus is that I don't have to worry about pulling in extra side-effects. The minus is that there might be only one treatment that will keep my tumor at bay, instead of the possibility of multiple ways to stop its growth. And I won't know about its sensitivity to Temodar until I get the 4 week MRI result.

After my radiation appointment, my freighbor and I headed down to my company to say "howdy" to the crew there that I haven't seen for almost a month. It was pretty amazing to see everyone, and even my freighbor mentioned that she gets why I've worked there so long, given how fantastic (as well as incredibly sarcastic) all of my co-workers are. I'm hoping now that the treatment doesn't knock me down too much and I'll be able to find enough time to work on some of the exciting projects (but will be "oh too tired" to work on some of the other things, of course).


  1. Hi Eric,

    I was stunned to hear (thru a former co-worker and dear friend of mine) about what you are going through. I know I barely know you but it has left me really thinking about how fragile life is and just how much we (the 'me" part of we) take for granted.

    I feel compelled to tell you (after reading your blogs) that your will amazes me beyond words. You are an inspiration and are truly blessed with an incredible support network!

    I will be holding you close in prayer and wishing the best for you.

    Sorry about the tattoo.... my husband is a(15yr) survivor and he still displays his proudly!

    Take care and keep up the good fight!
    Sherry - SRI alumni

  2. Fingers and toes crossed for the smart bomb! And good for you for Just Saying No! to steroids and Yes to sarcasm.