High tech treatment of that "skin" cancer, Melanoma

I spent a few tense hours in Radiation Oncology last Friday at my hospital of choice in preparation for Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS), which is happening on Wednesday to my latest brain metastasis. This tumor has actually been around for a couple of years. They thought it was benign, but now believe that it is melanoma, so we need to get the son of a bitch out of my head.

It is deeper in my brain however, and not in a good place to remove surgically. So, we’ll treat it with SRS, which in my case will be one shot of an extremely high dose of radiation to hopefully kill off the little bugger. The science behind SRS, and the planning that goes into it is incredible.  A team of neuroradiologists, neurosurgeons, and physicists map out the radiation with incredible perfection so that the radiation gets the tumor and not the rest of my brain. I have to say that I hope these pictures scare the hell out of you at least enough to make you wear sunscreen and stay the hell away from tanning beds. Because those are the two things that got me here. Tanning beds and being in the sun without protection.

It would make sense that for such precision to happen correctly, my head cannot move while I’m lying in this machine, right? To accomplish that in this case, they make a custom two-piece mask. I’m entirely grateful that they don’t use the halo that would be literally screwed into my head. But this mask is no piece of cake either.  It’s very, very tight and definitely makes me feel claustrophobic. Can anyone say Ativan? One piece is shaped to the back of my head, and the other is a mold of the front of my face, and as I said is VERY tight. The front piece is connected to the back, and then both pieces are bolted to the table. I couldn’t move if I wanted to. I won’t even try to lie and say I don’t hate it with everything I have, but what must be must be. See, I’m an ornery bitch and I’m not going down to this cancer without a damn good fight.

My youngest sister was very brave and came with me Friday to take some pictures so you could see some of the process. Thanks Beth! I would also like to thank the woman who was shaping and working on the mask, and who helped me get through Friday morning. She was kind and compassionate.

What would make me happy is if you would think about this mask every time you’re tempted to walk out of your house without wearing sunscreen. And for God’s sake stay away from tanning beds so this doesn’t happen to YOU.

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