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Radiation 3/25

This week has marked the beginning of a new phase of treatment. On Wednesday, I started radiation therapy of my retroperitoneal lymph nodes. It is a process of technological intrigue where physics and medicine meet to produce the third modality used in treating cancer. I have been subjected to the other two, chemotherapy and surgery, multiple times, but this is my first foray into therapeutic ionising radiation instead of the diagnostic kind. Having said that, I have now had 22 CT scans in the past 4 1/2 years, and the running joke is that it borders on being therapeutic in and of its self.

The process of getting radiotherapy is a fairly straight forward one, and involves more work behind the scenes by professionals that it does by the patient. My involvement is largely relegated to learning how to lie still for 10-20 min each day in the exact same position. A week before the therapy started, a planning scan was done to help plan how they administer the radiation. The radiation I am getting is called intensity modulated radiotherapy, where multiple radiation fields are used to focus on the targeted area whilst minimizing damage to the surrounding organs. It is a fascinating process where the beam is not static as there is a continually changing window through which the beam passes through to dynamically adjust the dose of radiation to the targeted areas in real time. The scientist in me has been intrigued.

As far as side effects go, I am yet to really feel them. I am told that nausea and fatigue are the most common, as well as local side effects depending on the area of the body being targeted. After each fraction, I have felt for 2-3 hours a sense of deep burning inside of me. It’s hard to know how much of that is imagined or real, but when I asked about it, I was told that it is probably the sensation of an acute inflammatory response in the area that has just been irradiated. Talking to people who have experienced both radiotherapy and chemotherapy before, it seems that radiotherapy is overall far better tolerated. The toxicity does tend to be more accumulative, so I expect that I will feel a lot worse towards the end of the 25 fractions than I do now.

In the interim, I intend to continue to work through the treatment as long as possible, realising that there is a fairly high chance I will have to take a few weeks off work towards the end as toxicity escalates. Certainly the early stages of treatment are basically a non-event in terms of impacting quality of life when I compare it to chemo. I am looking forward to the point where some of the therapeutic benefit is realised by reducing the metastatic pain that I still get. I am keen to reduce my reliance on pain medication to keep me functioning throughout the days.

The upside of all of this is the absence of chemotherapy in my life at the moment. I am enjoying having my weekends back for leisure rather than for nausea, of course the downside is that I am having shave far more often than the once every 5 days that I could get away with on chemo.

Until next time….

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Categories: Blog, Cancer Update Tags: ,
  1. Pastor Geoff Wiklund
    August 18, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    Hi Jared, Told my daughter to look our for you. If you see a beautiful young student from Canterbury take a second look on the excuse it could be Ps Geoff’s daughter. If her name is Mary-Rose say hi. I have also told her to look out for you. Blessings Geoff

  2. Jess
    August 18, 2013 at 10:33 pm

    yay for weekends!!!! nice photos you’ve been taking too:)

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