The tumors are small, so I do not need surgery, thank God.
We will switch chemo treatments, most likely to Xeloda and Lapanitib. We are still awaiting approval from the health fund. In any case, we will not start a new round of chemo until we get the results from the PET scan that I am having this Tuesday.
The first round of treatment will be radiation.
On Sunday my oncologist called to tell me he made an appointment for me to begin radiation therapy on Tuesday.
Things were moving quickly!
I read up about radiation options (at BrainMetsBC.org) and liked the idea of stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) (not really surgery, since they do not cut into your brain) -- they pinpoint the exact area of the tumor and bombard it with high doses of radiation. There are less side effects from SRS than from whole brain radiation (WBR), though WBR is often recommended in addition to SRS.
On Tuesday, the onco-radiologist who met with us (Moshe came with me), explained that I have too many tumors for any of SRS procedures (Gammaknife, Cyberknife, or Xknife). She patiently showed us the images of my brain, and pointed out the tumors. We counted 8 or 9 tumors.
She told me that, after consultation with the head of the department, they recommend WBR, for 20 treatments. I did not want WBR, and asked to speak with the head of the department.
Since I would need WBR, even if I also received STS, I went for the "simulation" while waiting for the department head to return to the department.
The "simulation" is where they set you up for radiation. There is a special machine they use to mark exactly where you will receive radiation. In my case, the set up included making a mask of my head to hold it in the same place and position.
I closed my eyes and the technician placed a warm mesh mold on my face and pulled it down over my head. I held my head still as the mold cooled and formed a hardened mold. I had purposely left my mouth open for easier breathing, but as the mold cooled it pulled my jaw closed so only a small opening was left. I worried that I would not be able to breath easily. The technician assured me that if I found it difficult to breath, the technicians could cut open the area of my mouth.
Then I left to wait for the department head.
There was another woman waiting already and then another couple joined us in the waiting area. Realizing that he might not know to call us in, I returned to the technician to ask how he would know that we were waiting for him. She told me she would let him know.
We were the first ones called in.
The head of the department patiently and kindly explained to me, again, the reasons for recommending WBR, primarily because I had over 3 tumors. He also showed us the largest study comparing tumors treated with and without STS and read the summary to us: STS is dramatically effective when there is only one tumor. When there are 2-4 tumors, STS is still significantly effective. However, there is no evidence that STS improves recurrance or survival rates when there are more than 4 tumors.
He did not rule out the use of STS in the future, but certainly saw no benefit at this time. He is one of the top radio-oncologists and his position is consistent with the literature. He did not rush us and answered all our questions, even the ones we repeated from different angles.
I would begin WBR treatment on Thursday.
That first week, I would also receive radiation on Friday. Then I would receive radiation every day, Sunday through Thursday, for a total of four weeks (20 treatments).
Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.
With love and optimism,