Radiation simulation

After I picked up my lymphedema sleeves, it was off to the Cancer Center for the first step for radiation treatment – the simulation. I needed a CT scan of my body (called a simulation) so the radiologist (Dr. Figura) can develop a radiation setup that is specific to my morphology.

I like CTs much more than MRIs because they’re quiet and I didn’t even need an injection for this one. I had a choice of a couple of gown patterns and saw a new one:photo(11)

Not too bad, compared to many of the others I’ve had. Once I was gowned up, I went into the CT room. The tech had me lie down on the table, with my head resting on a flat, not-so-comfortable cushion and my arm held over my head. She added a wire sticker on my mastectomy scar so the scar’s location would show up on the scan. There was a series of lasers shining down from the ceiling that I was lined up with and sent into the CT. Five minutes later, I slid out of the CT machine, easy enough.

Even when the CT was over, I wasn’t quite done. The tech asked me to lie still on the table while she marked the laser lines on my body with blue Sharpie. Dr. Figura also came in and drew a series of marks on and around my scar. The plan is to get 28 treatments on my chest, and then five extra concentrated around the mastectomy scar. The tech had to transfer the Sharpie marks from my inflated breast onto tracing paper. At least she didn’t have to worry about the tissue squishing around while she drew since there’s no give on the expander at this point.

I got some special clear stickers placed over the marks on my chest and told to be very careful not to wash or pick them off. If it looks like any are going to come off, I have to go back to get the sticker replaced. Needless to say, I’ve been careful with them so far.

Notice some of the radiation guide marks.

Notice some of the radiation guide marks.

By the time I got off the table, my arm was killing me. My armpit didn’t really appreciate stretching like that, but the worst was the cramping in my shoulder muscles. I was told I’ll have one more marking session (with the opportunity to exchange the Sharpie/sticker combo for tiny tattoos) that will last a half an hour. The tech recommended some Tylenol to help with the pain, but I might use one of the Valium I have left instead.