Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sports, donuts and a battle against a Cone of Cancer

There seems to be an odd connection between Baltimore's sports teams making it to the playoffs and my radiation visits to this loyal, fan-driven city.  In January/February 2013 I was here for a month having radiation treatments to a stubborn tumor in the hilar region of my right lung -- a very dangerous area -- followed by a cryoablation to a large kidney tumor.  See 2/25/13 post.  It was a very stressful time, but I was distracted by watching the city whip itself into a frenzy with the Ravens going to the Super Bowl.  I'll never forget the sea of purple at Hopkins as I walked in every day to get zapped.  Everyone wore football jerseys and there were purple donuts and balloons everywhere.  I watched the game at Hope Lodge with my new found kindred spirits as we feasted on a spread of football food and, for the night, we all forgot that we had cancer.

Here I am again, back at Hope Lodge during the championship series with Baltimore now in a sea of orange, rooting for the Orioles.  Even more bizarre is that I'm staying in the exact same room I had last time!  The Orioles have to advance to the World Series, just so I can have an orange donut and witness the staff in different sports jerseys.

You may remember in my last post I mentioned that I would have to have radiation to an "area of thickening" that Dr. Hong saw when he performed the cryoablation in the lining (pleura) of my left lung a month ago.  He referred me back to Dr. Hales, my back-up pitcher (couldn't resist) whenever Dr. Hong doesn't feel that ablations are the safest option for whatever is going on.  The top of my left lung, or the apex, is shaped like a cone leading down to the rest of my lung.  This cone starts just 2 cm. down from the top of my shoulder.  This thickened area is like a caking that goes around the top of the cone.  Treating this Cone of Cancer should be done sooner rather than later because the pleura is like a 2 layered slip-and-slide, allowing me to breathe in and out without pain.  If the slip-and-slide gets stuck, well, then there's pain, not to mention cancer getting the upper hand.  

Dr. Hales told me that coming up with a treatment plan that kills the Cone of Cancer while sparing the healthy tissue inside the cone is tricky.  Is there any other way with me?  Sometimes I feel like my purpose is to challenge the medical industry's commitment to innovation.  

There are a lot of different types of radiation.  Some machines treat areas that are diffuse, like this Cone of Cancer.  Some machines are very precise, honing in on a very targeted area.  Both are used for a host of reasons depending on the type of cancer, the area in the body, the size of the target, the ability of the patient to tolerate the treatment, the dose that's required to kill the cancer and a lot of other variables.  The science is overwhelmingly complicated.  Dr. Hales and his team of physicists decided to treat me on a new machine that Hopkins just got last month.  The Versa HD (high dose, not high definition) was just launched by a Swedish company called Elekta in March.  It combines several types of radiation delivery methods so that I get precision and diffuse treatments wherever I need them.  Plus, the beams actually bend to treat areas like this cone, which has a messy shape, while protecting the healthy tissue inside.  I'll have 15 sessions total -- three down, 12 to go -- and I'll be home by the end of the month.

The effort of packing and moving to Baltimore was difficult, especially after last month's cryoablation.  I'm sleeping 10-11 hours a night (I know!).  Fatigue always sets in toward the end and after treatments, so I can't imagine my energy level a month from now.  I'll be sleeping as much as Sadie!  Oh, I miss my kitty.  She's in good hands with my neighbor, Michael, whose sons will hopefully give her a workout every now and then.  As for my pain, time will tell with that too.  Since the cryoablation and the radiation treatments are in the same area of my upper pleura, I can't tell what's causing what and what might be temporary as opposed to ongoing.  I'll just be glad to have the treatments over so that I can regain my energy and strength over the next several months as I slowly downsize for my move to Pittsburgh in the spring.  

For now, I'll keep rooting for the Orioles and stay true to my temporary home.  I'm told that they rally at the last minute, when things look really grim.  Who does that remind you of?  I'm determined that by the time I leave here, I'll have had my orange donut.



1 comment:

  1. Hello,
    I am posting this on behalf of Dr. Hansen.
    Please note, we neglected to put the website in the original email. This email contains the website for the study where you will find important information.
    My name is Dr. Dana Hansen and I am faculty at Kent State University, College of Nursing. You may view my faculty website page at .
    We are contacting you because you are listed as the contact person of the blog. My research team and I are interested in learning about the family caregiver’s experience with reading their loved one’s illness blog.
    Therefore, we are conducting a research study and are inviting you to participate. Below are details of the study. You can also find out more by going to our study website: If you are not the family caregiver of the person with a serious illness, please forward this information to someone who is.
    Family caregivers are eligible to participate in the study if:
    • Both you and your loved one are 18 years or older
    • The blogger/ill person must have a diagnosis of cancer, congestive heart failure (CHF), chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD), or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)
    • The blogs must be written in English with a minimum of 1 posting per month
    • The family caregiver must participate in the blog by responding to the blog or reading the blog

    Procedure and Time Commitment:
    The family caregiver should go to our website where they can click on an icon labeled “participate in study”. The family caregiver will be asked to read and agree to a consent form. If they choose not to participate after reading the consent form, they click on the icon labeled “I disagree”.
    If the family caregiver agrees to participate, they will complete a form asking their name and how to contact them. Then a member of our research team will contact them to schedule a time to conduct a 1-2 hour interview where we will ask questions about their experience as a caregiver interacting with their loved one on an illness blog. A nominal onetime payment of $50.00 will be sent to the participant once the interview is complete.
    Participation is voluntary, refusal to take part in the study involves no penalty or loss of benefits to which participants are otherwise entitled, and participants may withdraw from the study at any time without penalty or loss of benefits to which they are otherwise entitled.
    Thank you for your time and consideration,
    Dr. Dana Hansen
    Dana Hansen RN, PhD
    Assistant Professor
    Kent State University, College of Nursing
    113 Henderson Hall, P. O. Box 5190, Kent, OH 44242


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