Throat Blog — Oh, and a Nutritionist, Too

Oh, forgot to mention that a nutritionist also visited during the chemotherapy. And I should mention that, plus mention the nurses and techs that took care of me. They were all great. Got me professionally IV’d on the first attempt and made sure I had everything I needed to be comfortable for my few hours visit.

Nutritionist went over things to do as or if nausea or other digestive side effects occur. Also recommended a 2,000-2,500 calorie/day diet just to maintain weight and gave me some some diet tips (creamy soups, lots of protein, lots of water or sports drink). I’ll go ahead and start tracking my calories for a while (I use MyFitnessPal, which also links up with my activity/fitness/sleep/weight tracker at Polar) in addition to keeping up with my weight every morning. She said that they’d look at putting in a PEG (feeding tube directly into my stomach) if I lost more than 10-15 lbs. That would put me well below 160…so I’ll push to stay above that target. Or wear progressively heavier and heavier clothes to their weigh-ins. 🙂

I do have some high-calorie liquid supplements (Boost Very High Calorie) that will be easier to swallow as my throat gets sore. And, I’ll start splitting my eating up into more meals and graze on snacks, too. I have a nearly brand new food freeze-dryer I can use to make freeze-dried snacks (bananas, ice cream, other fruits, vegetables, whatever) that I can snack on…and that are easier to lug into treatment than bananas, ice cream, and fruit would be if not freeze-dried. I can also blend some of that with the Boost to make something that has more flavor variety. So, thinking about lots of ways to pass the weighs.

Anyway, thanks again to my chemo and radiation teams. I know it has only been one day, and 34 more treatment days ahead of me (for the radiation…only 5 more for chemo). But, it was the most important day, and I made it through with just a stutter (that was all me, not them).


Throat Blog — First Treatment Day

Well, today was mostly a non-event for me (hopefully a kick in the tumor’s butt…wait, I’m not even sure, now, if tumors have butts). A little blood test to make sure my kidneys were working well, then they plugged me into an IV for nearly 3 hours. First about 32 oz of Saline. A couple of shots of anti-nausea meds. Finally, a 32 more oz of Saline at a slower rate while they put in the cisplatin. The only real effect I could feel was the need to get rid of some of that fluid (3 times). I just dragged the IV tree into the bathroom with me, then plugged it back into the wall when I got back to my chair.

I could taste when the saline started. Then could again taste when the cisplatin started (more metallic taste). I just sat in the chair and munched on beef jerky, cookies, and gummy bears while watching Game of Thrones Season 4 Final Episode.

After everything finished and they unhooked me, I did feel just a little shaky, but not nauseous. That could have been caused by Game of Thrones, though.

Went straight to the food court and had 1/4 chicken with sweet potatoes, mixed veggies, and a chocolate chip cookie. I figured I might as well eat, since I felt fine(ish).

Next stop, radiation. Appointment was for 3 PM, but I had nothing to do but wait, so checked in early, then took a Musinex to keep down the need to cough. They took me back to the treatment area around 2:20pm. Checked out the machine and went over what the procedure would be. I should have asked for a few more details. They basically said 20 minutes, then it would be done.

They locked me in place, and I immediately had to ask for them to unlock me. Just a little bit panicky…it was tight enough that my breathing felt constricted and I needed a few more minutes to psych myself up. So I asked them to give me a few more details about when I would know the machine was irradiating, when it was safe to wiggle a bit, etc. The only medical intervention they had for the anxiety was ativan–basically a Valium. But, you cannot take that and then drive. So, I took a few deep breaths, coughed once, and had them lock me down again.

After I got locked down the second time, I realized that I had tensed up so much, that I was much tighter in the mask than necessary. I willed my chest and shoulders to relax, and that helped a lot. I didn’t feel like my breathing was restricted. I could take a nice, deep breath. The only major discomfort was dry mouth (from the panic and probably from the chemo and Musinex, as well). I might hit myself with some mouth moisturizer tomorrow just before they lock me down.

First, an X-Ray. Then, they said would come in and adjust the targeting marks on my mask. That would take about 5 minutes. Except, apparently the marks were fine as is, and they did not re-adjust the targeting marks. So this phase just took 2 minutes or so, followed by another 3 or 4 minutes of waiting.

Next, the actual radiation therapy. The “gun” rotates around my neck while irradiating. Takes a little over a minute to do this, then it rests for a few seconds (you can hear the noise level change). It does this 4 times for my treatment (other patients might get more or fewer). I took advantage during each brief rest to swallow, cough if I needed to, or just slightly wiggle. Then, after the 4th pass of the radiation beam, they unlocked me and it was over.

Having a 1- or 2-minute horizon instead of a 20-minute horizon to think about really helped my mental state. It is much easier to count to 120 than to count to 1200. Plus, I believe the actual procedure was completed in just a little over 10 minutes, not 20. So, end the end I got through it without needing a diaper change. I would have consider a Stadium Pal, though, if it had gotten worse instead of better.

So, after all that I stopped by the office (a couple of packages to pick up, a little work to do). Checked in with my bosses. Reminded them to keep sending me tasks…use me while I feel good, because I might not be this perky in a month. Now, headed to get some Clam Chowder and then home.

I don’t really feel any different at the moment. But, I didn’t really expect to feel any different, yet. Hopefully, tomorrow’s post won’t be “Throat Blog — The Return of the Chicken.” (Speaking of either lunch or my radiation therapy lock-down anxiety…).

Throat Blog — Feeling Down in the Mouth

Well, several other people were feeling down in my mouth, today. First stop of the morning was a Dental Oncologist in Garland (about a 1 1/2 hour drive in this morning’s rainy rush hour traffic). Basically had to sign off on my teeth being healthy enough for me to start radiation therapy. Also, needed to have a tray made for a fluoride treatment to provide extra fluoridation to help counter any negative affects the radiation could have on my teeth. So, about 20 X-rays and a consult ensued, followed by a tooth casting so that the fluoride trays could be made.

The radiation oncologist didn’t really feel that I would have to worry too much about my teeth, as the treatment will be much lower on my throat than some other cancer patients. But, I am all for an abundance of caution.

The dentist gave me a thumbs up (after having various people in the practice having put their thumbs…and several fingers…in) but recommended I move up my November cleaning appointment to be as soon as possible. The office staff was great (oh, they are They even helped out getting me an appointment for dental prophylaxis (look it up) with my regular dentist for this afternoon.

So, I left Garland with a bag of goodies (2 toothbrushes, industrial strength fluoride gel, mouth moisturizing samples) and headed the 46 miles west back to my regular dentist. Got there early enough to grab lunch and do some email (some semblance of work, today, anyway).

Office staff at my regular dentist — and by regular I mean every 6 months since 1988 — got me squeezed into the afternoon schedule. Oh, and that isn’t a typo; I’ve really been seeing the same dentist (and hygienist) for nearly 30 years. When I first started going there (after my previous dentist was arrested…but that is an entirely different tale involving women, nitrous oxide, and after-hours “dates” in the office) I had hair, my dentist didn’t have grey hair, and the hygienist was single. Fast forward, I’ve been going there through my own alopecia, the dentist’s development of canities, and the hygienists birth of a daughter who is now grown and long ago released to the wild.

The entire office staff was great (if you are in Fort Worth and need a dentist: Got teeth cleaned, a complete review of every tooth’s  history and condition, then another bag of goodies (toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, some more mouth moisturizer). Oh, and Dr. Rubin: I was just joking. This wasn’t actually caused by floss poisoning.

Throat Blog — On the Schedule

Ok, just got my treatment schedule. I misunderstood the chemo part…it is more often than I thought.

Starting 10/2, Chemo every Monday for 6 weeks (with labs it will take 4-5 hours); Radiation every week day for 7 weeks (30-45 minutes per session).

I could list the possible side affects of the chemo, but just doing so would actually trigger some of those side affects. In any event, the side affects I actually get are the only ones that will matter, and no one knows what those are until they actually happen. They’ll be what they’ll be and I’ve got plenty of drugs to ease whatever they are. And, whatever they are can’t be worse than what this is going to cure.

So, I’ll try to aim for more cheese and less whine.