Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Graduation from Radiation

(or "How I got sunburns on my butt") 2/13/08

Well, folks, 28 days came and went, much more quickly than I thought it would, thankfully. (Random aside: I wonder now where they came up with 28 days - I'm sure it's just a total calculated dose divided by the individual dose or something like that - but what about the obvious connection to the zombie movie 28 Days Later, its less-good successor, 28 Weeks Later, and the less well known and completely un-zombified Sandra Bullock movie, 28 Days? ... )

Anyhoo, I finished chemo cycle #4 last week and capped it off on Friday with my last radiation session (woohoo!!!). There wasn't too much ceremony surrounding the moment, but they did give me a spiffy certificate (as you can see in the picture). The rat is there to signify Chinese New Year (a gift from mom - can you tell which rat it is?) and how awesome this year will be compared to last :P. Apparently some people get dressed up in cap and gown on their last day, but I guess it didn't feel like that big a deal to me (plus I'd been in the hospital all week for cycle 4 of chemo anyhow - didn't have a whole lot of energy to put into it). It certainly feels like more of a big deal now that I don't have to go into the hospital every day and lie on a table for 15 minutes. Plus, I'm psyched to have these radiation burns on my bottom heal up (everyone get your inner chant on, "Heal! Heal! Heal!"), cuz they're painful and itchy and keep me up at night. I guess it's kinda like someone took a big magnifying glass while you were lying on your stomach at the nude beach and he/she aimed it in a nice concentrated 3x4 inch oval right on the midline. Then you get up two days later and it's all burned and raw and only in that spot and you say, "but I was only out there for 15 minutes!". And the evil maniacal laughter of the magnifying glass wielder echoes in the distance...

Actually, the magnifying glass looks a lot more like what's in the pictures below. About a week before I finished, I asked Lisa, one of the radiation techs whom I saw almost every day of those 28 days, to take a few pics for me:


Side view of me on the radiation table. As long as I wore loose-fitting pants with no metal, I didn't have to change into a gown every time, which was nice. The round thing above my pelvis is the gray cheese wheel I referred to in another post. The rectangular panel hovering below me is actually only there because they were taking some X-rays before starting the radiation. Usually that piece is retracted as the whole cheese wheel armature rotates around my body.

Onne, one of the other radiation techs, does something with fancy equipment. I never really saw this part, so I don't know what they would do out there. My impression is that everything is pretty automated, though.

They can monitor me from outside the room I'm in - gotta keep the radiation dose down for the techs!


A feet's eye view of me on the table - they have a mold to put the bottom parts of your legs into, so they can position you in the same spot every time. Also, there are lasers demarking a cross pattern onto the table, so they can use that, too. I also have little tattoos on my body for alignment...

I've been feeling pretty good after this last cycle, despite the burned bum and such - even managed to make it to campus twice this week and did a little bit of climbing yesterday. I've also been going to a "restorative yoga" class every once in a while (went on Monday). It's sponsored by the Stanford Cancer Center but is held at the Avalon Yoga Center in Palo Alto. It's more focused on relaxation and stretching, which is nice. Still having some painful BMs and other not-so-fun issues, but all and all, things are okay. It just gets a little boring on those days when I really don't feel so good and have to lie around the house all day.

K, til next post!

6 comments:

AnthonyB said...

Congratulations on finishing up your radiation treatment. I've been tuning in daily in anticipation of an update. Are the tattoos permanent? Do they do any sort of follow up testing to see if they accomplished what they wanted to with the radiation treatments? Been reading, watching, listening to or playing anything good recently with your down time?

Jessica said...

Congratulations! I hope the bum burns are all healed up by now - what a drag. (Reminds me of my attempt to get a laser brazilian - but a thousand times worse.) I have to smile at the thought of you with tattoos, though...did they give you any gnarly designs??

Mary said...

Hey Alex. Congratulations on finishing with radiation! I hope the burns heal quickly and that the next round of chemo goes smoothly.

jeff said...

Yayy! Another post! Been a while, man, congrats on finishing the radiation. :) Bum burns, begone!

Thomas Sean said...

Woot! A diploma for lying on your stomache! Because Alex Tung needed more diplomas ... haha seriously though, good work. I too have radiation burns, but mine are on my upper arms because I put sunblock on my lower arms when I had a tee shirt on, and then on my neck and shoulders when I took it off and completeoly forgot the in between part before swimming out to flat island ... If you come visit you can do tai chi and yoga in the park across from my house with 3 or 4 different groups every morning.

Alex Tung said...

Sadly the tattoos are not that exciting, just a couple of cross marks. In fact, I think they've pretty much faded away at this point. The techs had to keep doing touch-ups with sharpies while I was getting treatment.