Monday, June 30, 2008

Randy's Visit to the Radiologist

Today my mom and I accompanied Randy to the UW Cancer Alliance to meet with his radiologist, Dr. Shilpen Patel, for a consultation. We were first met by a young medical student who went over Randy's treatment since his cancer was discovered in March. After a thorough review, his radiologist arrived, a young, personable doctor who acted like he had all the time in the world for us. He explained what type of treatment he plans to do with the radiation and how it will be used in conjunction with the chemo. Right now it looks like Randy will have about 8 weeks of daily (Monday through Friday) radiation treatments that last about 3-5 minutes each. His first scheduled treatment is on Monday, July 14. Even though the actual radiation treatment lasts only a few minutes, he said Randy can expect to be at the hospital for the treatment for about an hour because it takes a good 40-45 minutes just to get him and everything else ready. He also went over all the possible side effects and what Randy can expect. He said that the first 3 - 31/2 weeks will be pretty much side-effect free in terms of the radiation. He might have a little redness and possibly a little fatigue, but nothing very noticeable. After that, however, things start to change. Redness of the esophageal area and his back will occur, he may experience a feeling of a sore throat due to the burning of the esophagus, and he will feel fatigued. He emphasized that he needs to exercise daily for 30 - 60 minutes (nothing extremely strenuous, but he needs to run, walk, bike, etc.), eat well, avoid alcohol except for a glass of wine once in a while---and he needs to get enough rest. Also, he'll be having another round of chemo in conjunction with the radiation this time. They'll give him one at the beginning and another at the end. The only thing the doc said about the chemo side effects is that they will amplify the radiation side effects. A lot just depends on the type of chemo he gets and right now he doesn't know exactly what that will look like. He meets with his surgeon, Dr.Wood, for the first time since his surgery this Wednesday. Mom and I plan to go with him again and get the lowdown.

After answering all our questions, Randy was escorted by a very friendly technician named Lee to another room where she explained exactly what she was going to do (hook him up to an IV and give him a "contrast" where they inject dye in his veins to find out exactly where the tumors are so they know where to aim the radiation), and then made an alpha cradle--a pillow-like contraption that will be formed to his body so that when he goes for the radiation, he will lie on it/in it and they'll be able to exactly pinpoint where to aim the radiation. Lots of things to do to prepare for these treatments.

While we were meeting with the medical student, Randy was scratching his left calf and noticed that it was bleeding. It took a while to get it stopped and he said it had been itching the night before and he thought he'd been scratching it in his sleep. His other ankle had been itching, too. Then, after he had the contrast dye, his skin flushed pink so the doctor decided to give him some Benadryl to take care of the reaction which it did. He said that when Randy needs more contrast dye treatments he'll have to have Benadryl and some Prednisone beforehand to prevent this reaction. 

Randy seemed to be handling the news in stride, but as we were leaving he said he now knows how he'll be spending his summer. He was a bit discouraged, but trying to keep a positive outlook. The doctor seems optimistic and went over every possible side effect--he said he didn't want to hide anything from him. I asked a few questions as did my mom and between the three of us, I think we left feeling like we knew a lot more than we did going in. As Randy has mentioned before, the people at the UW are amazing--every single person we came in contact with was upbeat, positive, smiling, caring--just the kind of person you would want to be taking care of your loved one. He's in good hands!

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