Saturday, August 6, 2016

When Things Are Different Than They Seem

I'm late in writing my post this week and yet I could not have written it until now.  Perhaps that means right on time.

Last Friday, just one week ago, I had the first of my 5 cyberknife treatments at UCSF.  This was all new to me, yet I knew the way to Mt. Zion and drove myself along the familiar route over the Golden Gate and into San Francisco.  I felt well and eager for these treatments to begin.  They would eliminate the nodules in my lungs without pain or side effects.  We would work on the larger one first, flat like a pancake about 3.5 cm in diameter.  It is at the site of my biopsy a year ago in my left lower lung.

I had made the earlier trip to be measured so they could calculate the movement of my breath around this nodule.   From this Dr. Gottschalk and his team of physicists (and other scientists) did precise calculations to program the cyberknife machine and now they were ready for me to begin.

The staff was warm and informed me about every detail as we entered the cyberknife room.  It looked a bit like I was being readied for a space odyssey.  I put on a black vest with yellow velcro strips running vertically.  I wore this during my earlier measurement appointment and it tracks my breathing.  I then lay down on a very, very narrow table.  My head was cradled by a sculpted pillow.  Another one was placed under my knees.  The room was cold.  I was wrapped in white warmed blankets and 3 red lights were placed across my low abdomen to also track my breathing.

I was now ready for take-off.  My table moved to a calculated position.  The large white body of the cyberknife machine moved toward me and a huge robotic arm began moving into position.  It looked like an outer space movie.  Over about an hour, this arm move to positions all around me with it's lens opening and closing to send it's energy beam which intensified directly into the lung nodule.  I felt no sensation of its deadly mission.

Above me was a very large inlaid circle of dark blue.  There were hidden lights illuminating all the edges and in the dark blue field were tiny LED lights like stars in constellations.  Apparently they had formed shapes of actual constellations before the remodel.  Afterwards they gave the appearance but were randomly placed.  I relaxed with my breathing ~ alternating between closing my eyes in rest and gazing into the "night sky".  Since we were actually in the basement, this was a very spacious touch.

I felt fine as I drove home.  However, over the weekend I gradually lost my appetite and my energy.  Dr. Gottschalk had explained that patients don't have any symptoms or side effects.  I had my next appointment 4 days later.  This time I felt deep chills during the treatment and all the way home.  I couldn't wait to crawl into bed and soon had a fever of 101.1.  My #3 treatment was 2 days later.  Again I felt ill.  I spoke with one of the nurses.  Because of what I had experienced in Vienna, I felt fairly certain that this was my immune response and actually a good thing.  She confirmed that most of their patients could not raise a fever.

For most of us this is a curious thing, the opposite of the way we think.  My best outcome is that my immune system recognizes the dissolution of the nodule and mobilizes a hefty immune response to clean up exposed cancer cells ~ a secondary therapeutic benefit.  However, the symptoms this causes are what we have learned to call sickness ~ fever being #1.  The media and the medical care system have convinced us.  And, we hate feeling "sick" so we take meds to halt the fever which also halts our immune system's first best efforts.

It's true I don't like feeling this way, yet it is actually a good sign that my immune system is in the game.  I don't want to take it's moves away.  Sometimes things are not as they seem.  Today I go sit in the garden sunshine and feel better.

Love, Carole



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