The Next Step – Radiation

Hello everyone,

“Xin Nian Kuai Le!”

Happy solar and lunar new year to you all! I hope you are all having a good new year thus far. Well, as good as it can be these days…

It’s been a while since I last wrote! Well, there hasn’t been too much happening in regards to cancer treatments. Please be patient with my stream of consciousness.

Bella got some new shoes for winter. What a dork!

My 3rd PET scan in early January came back¬†clean!¬†A “complete response to therapy”.

Unfortunately, I have been advised to proceed with radiation therapy. I was hoping not to have to do radiation, but the radiation oncologist believes it will be best for me.

I’m sort of “borderline” in needing the therapy. As my original diagnosis was “Stage 2-B”, or “Stage-2 Unfavorable”, the decision could have gone either way as to pursuing radiation. Because it was “unfavorable” due to the size of the mass in my chest, and the fact that I experienced several “B” symptoms, such as the night sweats, the doc wished for me to do radiation.

An example of the proton machine.
(I’m sorry Dave!)

The therapy I will be undergoing is a specialized type of radiation called “proton” therapy. I’m no scientist, but basically this therapy, instead of x-rays, uses charged particles – protons – to administer treatment. The benefits of this type of radiation are 1) it can precisely target areas for treatment and 2) there is little to no spillover into other areas not targeted for treatment. What this means for me is an increased mitigation of future complications. So, hopefully down the road my chances of the cancer coming back, or a different cancer appearing as a result of the treatments themselves, is lowered. Some videos are available here about the treatments.

My treatments should be starting in the next two weeks or so.

The mask is something like this.

I’ve already had my “calibration” appointment. They do their own CT scan, but not before making a custom helmet to immobilize my head, and giving me four very tiny tattoos to aid in lining me up to the lasers exactly each treatment. As this kind of therapy is very precise, I must be lined up the same each time.

I will have 15 treatments. Monday-Friday for 3 weeks. After that – it should be time to have my mediport removed. That will mark the end of this whole ordeal! I cannot wait! I don’t even notice the mediport much these days, except when lifting things or when someone or something runs into it. I’ll be happy to be back to “normal”.

My hair is also growing back well, but slowly. My beard is coming back nicely, although different! It seems to grow more “straight” and is also darker. There doesn’t seem to be much red in it anymore. How strange! My head hair doesn’t seem to be much different.

An organ pipe, refurbished and upgraded, for a current project – a big boy!

I realize as I’m writing this that I’m writing a little differently. Now that I’m feeling somewhat human again, I’ve been trying to catch up on the oh-so-many things I’m behind on. An insurmountable task in normal times. So, my brain is a bit scattered and tattered these days. Luyang reminds me often that life was put on hold for 4 months, and still will be for a little longer.

As cabin fever sets in, I’m itching to get out and do things. I happily shovel snow. It’s good exercise! I’ve been doing just a tiny bit of piano and organ work. I will resume my normal load of this after radiation is done. I’ve played for 15 or more Masses in the past 2 weeks. Quite a bit of singing, but these proton treatments aren’t going to pay for themselves!

What would a post be without a Bella picture?

Finally, something goofy. Some co-workers at church insisted that I shouldn’t be taking naps on the pews at church, and opted to buy me a couch for my office. How kind and thoughtful of them! I still don’t have my normal energy levels back, so after a long car ride and two Masses, I’m usually pooped. My naps are now more comfortable. And, Bella approves!

I’m looking forward to 2022. Next time I write, I will share some things I’ve been interested in and have been working on, as well as how I’m viewing life going forward.

Many thanks for the continued prayers and cards. The worst is over now. Thanks for reading!

One thought on “The Next Step – Radiation”

  1. Hi Alex, I know you started your radiation treatments this week. I continue to pray for you as you journey toward the end of your treatment plan. May the effects of the radiation be minimal and may the three weeks go quickly so you can return to a fully healthy life. God bless you and Luyang ….. what a journey for a young marriage.
    Kathy Wilkins

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