Another whole week of leisure time has passed, interrupted only by a PET scan last Wednesday. I’ve been resting a lot, eating a lot (with an emphasis on protein), and trying to get more active. I’ve gradually been getting my legs back with a couple of walks up to the mailbox, a couple of walks around the block, and a couple of drives to the supermarket. With each outing I’ve felt a little stronger, a little steadier on my feet. I even took a short leaf-peeping drive up the Peak-to-Peak Highway as far north as Peaceful Valley (about 3 hours altogether), so I’m a lot more confident behind the wheel than I was a few weeks ago.
The downside of all this time away from the doctors is that the idea of returning to them for more treatment had been getting harder and harder to contemplate. But the vacation is about to end. I got a message yesterday and learned I’ve been scheduled for a VSIM tomorrow at 3 pm. (Good thing I hadn’t already planned something else for tomorrow, isn’t it?)
A VSIM, or Virtual Simulation, is the final check of my positioning for radiation treatment, now that the radiation oncologist has seen and assessed all my tests and scans. Actual treatment, I was told, could begin as soon as the same or next day.
Since I still hadn’t heard from anyone about the results of the PET scan, I called to inquire and got a callback a few hours later. The very good news was that the chest nodes that had appeared malignant in the earlier (June 19) PET scan were no longer showing as cancerous, meaning the chemo had killed them, or at least beaten them down to the point of not showing anymore.
However, I had been mistaken in thinking this would mean no radiation to those nodes. Instead, it means likely there will be no “boost” radiation. Boosts are slightly stronger radiation treatments focused on very specific targets such as the tumor bed (where the tumor was removed) and site of cancerous nodes. Boosts are administered during the last few days of radiation treatment. Boosting those chest nodes would likely endanger my heart, and I was told up front that the radiologist wanted to avoid that if possible.
As it is, the bulk of the radiation treatments will include my entire left breast and all associated chest nodes (a chain of nodes that extends vertically behind my breastbone up to my collarbone. My left arm will not be included because no malignant nodes were found on that side of my breast and none were removed from my arm. That’s very good news because radiation could induce lymphedema, something I have escaped so far.
At my appointment tomorrow I’ll get all the final details on the treatment they’ve planned for me (see the diagrams, etc.) and a treatment schedule will be set. I’m not looking forward to the radiation, but the sooner I start, the sooner I’ll be finished.