... in my brain actually. My very own brain tumour

Friday, February 15, 2008

Treatment starts

On 13 Feb I arrived at the Oncology unit at Vincent Palotti Hospital for the treatment process to begin. They were to perform a new MRI and CT Scan, after first making a plastic mask for my face. The mask is intended to fit snugly over my face and will be used to immobilize and restrain my head in an accurate position during treatment, so that every time treatment takes place, everything is in precisely aligned.

The mask was made after first asking me to lie on my back on a hard (cold!) metal table. A very hot sheet of plastic with tiny holes all over it was then placed on my face and molded into shape over the facial contours. Eventually it set and became a hard, snugly fitting mask. I now think of it as an istrument of torture . . .

Next I had to have a set of MRI images taken, with the mask on. The procedure took about half an hour. I can safely say that it was the most unpleasant half hour of my life. Try to imagine what I went through. Lying on my back, ready to be inserted into the narrow tunnel of the MRI machine, the radiographer applied the mask to my face. It was cold and now fitted very tightly indeed. There was a small opening for me to breathe through, but there were no openings for my eyes, so I could only see vague shapes through the transclucent platstic right in front of my eyeballs. Each time I blinked I could feel my eyelashes brushing against the mask. Next, my head was put on a hard headrest consisting of two sharp plastic prongs that bit into the back of my head. Finally, the mask was strapped firmly to the table. My head was now totally restrained and painful pressure points immediately became evident on the bony ridges of both eyebrows where the mask pressed on them. It was impossible to move any part of my immobilized head even a fraction of a millimeter. I do not suffer from claustrophobia, but in this instance I certainly did. It was awful. After being pushed into the narrow tunnel deep inside the MRI machine, it started humming, rumbling, vibrating and generally doing the sort of fearsome things that MRI machines do. All the time the pain from the prongs behind and the pressure points in front of my face got progressively worse. It took all my resolve to lie still, strapped in this dreadful facial straight-jacket. I kept having to fight panic which was steadily building up inside me and threatening to make me scramble out of the tunnel. Two sessions of 7 minutes each passed like a month, at the end of which I hoped to be released.

No such luck. I had to have an injection of magnetic dye and then have another 5 minute session in the machine. I asked desperately if I could not take a break for just a few minutes, but no, I couldn’t. Those five minutes went on forever. How I managed to control my panic I will never know, but I somehow did. Next, I had a CT Scan, also with the restraining mask strapping me to the metal bed. When I finished the experience, the relief was overwhelming, but I was close to tears when I met Joan in the waiting room. What a ghasly experience. Apparently they got marvellous pictures, so it was worth it.

The radiotherapy will start after they have planned the fields, and chemotherapy will commence at the same time. The planned date for the start of the actual treatment is now Monday 25 Feb. It will take place every day, Monday to Friday for 6 weeks. I hope some magic thing happens to the mask to make it more comfortable.

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