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So, there’s this blast door…
My awe of the medical technology available to me deepens
Text, photo and video by Tom Hintz
Posted – 1-8-2017
If it is even possible, a highlight of having cancer is experiencing the high-tech world of modern medicine first hand. Even more surprising is my having all this technology available at the Northeast Medical Center just a few minutes from my house. Within that center is the Levine Cancer Institute where a group of medical professionals is attacking my cancer, all in the same place.
Early in my treatment it became obvious that a bunch of chemo therapy was in my future. Since these cancer-fighting medications are administered through a large bore IV with lots of blood work and other blood-sample intensive testing the doctors urged me to get something called a PICC Line installed. This is a high performance IV fitting that runs a line into my upper arm, up over the shoulder and back down into a major blood vessel in my chest. The precision with which this must be installed was quantified by the repeated chest X-rays needed to be sure the end of the PICC line tube was exactly where it had to be.
The good thing about the PICC Line is that once installed it remains in place for up to a year and spares me the repeated poking with needles associated with my on-going treatment. Considering that there are people who are very good at doing this poking and others that seem more bent on seeing how tough I can be, the PICC Line has been a welcome, semi-permanent addition to my circulatory system.
I only get chemo once per week but each of those visits entails roughly 4 hours of drugs being pumped into me via the PICC Line. Cumbersome as it may be, the PICC Line is making the chemo part of my treatment easier to deal with.
Every weekday afternoon I report to the radiation department within the Levine Cancer Institute for my dose of radiation. Just the idea of them using radiation to kill my tumor is awe inspiring, walking in and seeing the machine that does this and where this machine is, is absolutely amazing.
As I expected they must be very careful with this procedure because there apparently is a bunch of radiation floating around within the chamber that contains the machine. This “containment” is emphasized by the 6”-thick, radiation-symbol emblazoned blast door the technicians close after putting me in my place on the machine. After going through that huge door there remains a 50 foot walk down a curved hallway that seems to be all concrete on all sides, again to contain the radiation I expect.
The good news is that actually getting the doses of radiation is surprisingly simple and pain free. The machine makes subtle noises and some intimidating “heads” on the machine circle around my body but nothing ever touches me and I cannot feel the radiation beam as it attacks the cancer. 15 minutes or so on the machine each weekday is all it takes. I have been getting more fatigued and experienced a little nausea but overall (heavy on the “so far”) I am holding up to this treatment well.
So, one week down, four more weeks to go with the current treatment plan. Once the chemo and radiation are done I rest up for a few weeks and then go in for major surgery to remove the hopefully now dead tumor and related cancer cells.
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