Monday, April 23, 2012

Gamma Knife - Take 2

We are very happy and relieved to have this second Gamma Knife procedure over with. It all went pretty well and I am once again very grateful that Manitoba is one of only three provinces which offers it. It was an early morning having to be there for 5:45 am. I didn't sleep much the night before feeling anxious about what was going to happen the next day so was up in plenty of time. My sister, Laura came and picked me up and we headed to the hospital. There were three of us in admitting and I could tell that the other two people were even more nervous than I was. The man sitting across from us was quietly singing Christmas carols to his wife trying to make her feel better. So sweet! Like he said though a little late for christmas songs. Still can't decide if it's easier the second time around because you know what to expect or harder because you know what to expect! One of my nurses was the same one I had last time and it was really nice having a familiar face there looking after me. I have been so lucky to have really fabulous nurses through Gamma. They call me every three months with my results and we have a little chat about how things are looking. She has taken the time to discuss things with me and reassure me which makes the whole process that much easier and I so appreciate it. This time I was the last to have my headframe put on.

After the headframe was attached I was taken down to MRI for my scan. There was talk that maybe one of the screws that was put in was too long. They paged another physicist and the neurosurgeon and in the end decided to replace it with a smaller one. Yikes!! I was not too happy about that but what can you do? He put the new one in and it wasn't too bad. They got me all hooked up and in place in the MRI machine and we got that part over with. It is such an exact science getting everything measured and lined up and took quite some time. My sister was very calming and comforting for me as at times I started to freak out a little bit. There is something about having a metal frame screwed into your head and then being secured into a metal tube that makes you feel a little freaked out. Go figure!! Anyway, it was time to head back to gamma knife so they give me my tool box and start wheeling me down the hall. I can only imagine what that looked like... It was very strange to be carrying this tool box which looked like they came out of someone's garage (only cleaner) and knowing that they actually used them on me. Weird!

So now we all got fed breakfast and waited as the doctors looked at our MRI's and came up with treatment plans for each of us. My other sister, Christine came and the three of us visited and laughed and I even did a little Zumba which must have looked hilarious because my sisters were killing themselves laughing. I went out to the washroom and got a few funny looks with my new headgear on. I almost went up and said, "What, do I have something in my teeth?" with a big grin which you could barely see through the metal contraption. Through all the laughter, I have to admit I was super nervous waiting. I just kept thinking of the worst case scenerio... They come back and say "sorry, the cancer has spread and we can't do anything for you", they take the frame off and send me home. I know I'm supposed to stay positive about everything but sometimes that fear sneaks in and I have to deal with it. So I brought myself back to reality.

The other two patients were told that their treatments would be around 20 minutes so that was good. Nice and quick. I start thinking to myself are they waiting to tell me because it's bad news? So I finally ask the nurse who goes and talks to the doctor. She comes back and let us know that everything looked good. The scan showed that the tumour had not grown or changed since my last MRI. What a relief! My treatment would only take 18 minutes! Much shorter than last time which was closer to an hour long. The surgeon came and talked to us and answered all of the questions that we had. It seems that I am weird which is a really good thing. It's what you want at this point - to be different. I had done a bit of reading up on brain stem metastasis and basically it is not a good thing. I was very relieved to hear my surgeon say that we would just keep on doing the brain scans and when something shows up get in right away for Gamma Knife. Simple.

I had gone out and picked up a CD to listen to - Ingrid Michaelson - one of my new favorites. The second song that came on was just right for this occasion *This is War*. A perfect cancer fighting song! "I won't surrender. I will fight better. You knocked me out. You knocked me down but I will find my way around. Someone's got to lose. It's not gonna be this girl this time." So many songs about heartbreak you can totally relate to having cancer after all cancer is like a bad boyfriend that breaks your heart again and then just won't go away right? So I listend to the first 4 or 5 songs on the CD in the Gamma machine and surgeon says as he's unhooking me, "If you want I can leave you in so you can listen to the rest." I'm like "No thanks. I'm good. I'll just listen to it when I get home." So they remove all the devices attached to me and take the screws out. Finally! What a relief. Now I should say that during Gamma Knife I felt nothing. The gamma rays beam in and all meet at the tumour and destroy it and I feel nothing. It's amazing. I am told to watch for swelling which sometimes happens in the first month after gamma. I would feel funny if this happens - lightheaded, dizzy, weird. This time the headache only lasted about 1/2 an hour and after a little lunch I was on my way home. I stopped by my Mom and Dad's to let them know that everything went well and that I was fine then I headed home for a nap. I had talked to Jeff earlier as he kept tabs on me through my sisters and he is always there for me if and when I need him. I am very fortunate to have all of this support and it makes it so that it's not always the same person carrying it all. We can spread it out a little bit. It works for us.

So then Friday rolled around and it was time for my bone scan. My doctor scheduled another batch of scans for me since the cancer spread we want to make sure that it's not anywhere else. I went in and had my injection of some kind of radioactive dye and then we went to Polo Park to do a little shopping. My sister got yelled at in Ricki's for touching the clothes hook. They seem to be very protective over that thing!! So crazy! Anyway, after a little shopping and some lunch we headed back to the hospital for my scan. It was very quick and we were home in no time. It was actually a really nice day! The weekend I was drained and feeling exhausted and Saturday morning I woke up with the right side of my face swollen. I could barely open my eye. I didn't worry too much about it because I was told that this could be one of the side effects of having the frame on in gamma. I went back to work on Monday and was actually feeling pretty good. My swelling went down and I had a pretty good week. Just a little more tired than usual. I have been walking every night and even started running a bit. Whenever I find out that the cancer is back I always go through this slump where I don't feel like doing anything and I eat whatever I want. What's the point sort of attitude. Then when I'm recovered a bit from surgery I get this blast of energy and feel like I need to move. I think that is my way of fighting back. Making me feel like I have some control in this. I end up feeling better because of it. This is where I am right now. I am feeling pretty great! I have my CT scan tonight and then next week I meet with my doctor to get all of my results. Will be so glad to know that there is nothing else going on in my body.

I want to say thank you for all of the prayers, good thoughts and positive energy being sent my way. It helps to have all of the love and support from all of you. I love the quilt that Auntie Debbie made with all of the well wishes and photographs on it. Thank you to everyone who contributed to it. It is beautiful and a reminder of how many are cheering for me and my family. The meals were much appreciated from my cousins, aunt and uncle. So nice to have them in the freezer and not have to worry about what to make for supper. The kids love them and they are really healthy and delicious too!! I am very grateful to the doctors and nurses looking after me and the technology which has made sure that I stick around longer than ever expected. Jeff and I have planned a road trip next month with the kids so we are very much looking forward to this getaway and to spending some time having fun together. This last month has been another stress filled one so once we get all the rest of my results back it will be nice to go and have some fun!

It's sometimes hard to find the good in life but usually if you look hard enough it is there. It may be just that the sun is shining or that your favorite movie is on TV or your favorite song on the radio. I will never forget laying in bed in the hospital waiting to have my colonoscopy and one of my favorite Bon Jovi songs comes on the radio "It's my life". It made it all seem somehow better. OK, life isn't so bad. Sometimes I have to dig a little deeper than other times but there is usually something there for me to hold on to. Oh, and when there's not there's always wine with gold flakes in it! That makes things seem better too!! (hee hee)

Love, laugh and have fun!!

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