Radiation started this past week. On Monday, I had my appointment with my dental oncologist team to get my final stent and some other goodies. My dental appointment was only supposed to be 30 minutes but it ended up being an hour and a half because my final stent did not fit properly. The doctor had to make adjustments to the stent in order to make it fit. They had an assortment of swag for me to take home, which I am guessing was the same swag bag given out at the Oscar's! LOL
Let's go through what was in my swag bag and the reason behind each item. I received a soft toothbrush and floss just like you would get at a normal visit to the dentist. I received a tube of Gel-Kam, the Gel-Kam is a fluoride paste to prevent tooth decay. The Radiation will damage my salivary glands, which would normally produce fluoride. Since that function will be gone for me, I will have to do these fluoride treatments for 10 minutes a day for the rest of my life. The worst part about that for me will be just remembering to do the treatments everyday consistently.
Next, there are two blue containers. Within the two blue containers are my top teeth and bottom teeth.
No, I don't have dentures. Lol. These are exact moldings of my teeth that will hold my mouthpieces for when I do the fluoride treatments.
These bad boys weren't cheap either. Insurance doesn't cover the plastic moldings for my treatments, so we had to pay about $320. I did get to take the moldings home, which are pretty cool to see the exact layout of your teeth.
My first radiation appointment was on Wednesday. I was super nervous because I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect. I arrived before my scheduled time and was called back. I saw mini-me DB II and we took a few minutes to catch up. He had changed a little bit since the last time I had saw him because he had straps on the side of him. I laid down on the table for radiation and put my stent in my mouth. They brought DBII over and put it on my head. I found out quickly what the straps are for, the straps click on the bed and lock into to place to keep me from moving. Almost seems like it could be a torture device (Lol). If you don't remember DB II, then see below.
The gray straps that have the black markings clip onto the bed. There are clips on each side and the top.
My team left the room while they configured the machine. The machine has a built-in X-ray with the radiation beam. They make sure that everything is lined up in alignment because they have to be precise to where the radiation is being delivered.
The actual radiation procedure takes about 15 minutes because the machine constantly rotates around my head delivering radiation to me. It actually goes by pretty quickly once it begins. Even though the treatments are 15 minutes, I have to do the treatments Monday-Friday for 6 weeks.
I am not really feeling any side effects from the radiation yet. They said that it usually kicks in two weeks after you begin radiation. I am hoping that the side effects for me are on the mild side, but here are what the side effects could be:
- Red, itching, and peeling skin (like a sunburn)
- Loss of Appetite
- Hair loss at the areas being treated
- Problems swallowing
- Damage to Salivary Glands
- Damage to jawbone
- Dry mouth
- Mouth Sores
Every Wednesday I will have a meeting with my whole care team to see if anything needs to be changed, what my pain level is, treatments, and so forth. I am glad they do this because if anything comes up, then I know we will be able to take care of any issues right away.
Also, radiation causes tightness of the tissue in the treated area. I have to do mouth and neck exercises 3 to 4 times a week for at least up to 2 years. If I don't do these exercises, then there is a possibility of permanent stiffness. I am more than happy to do these exercises to prevent any further complications.
My eating continues to improve. The variety of foods that I am able to eat becomes better and better each week. It still takes forever to eat, but over time it will get better. I am at the point where I will not eat in front of anyone else other than my family. I know when I eat that it's not very pretty, so I don't want people to see that side until I get back to a more normal way of eating.
My speech has improved tremendously. I still have trouble saying certain words, but again that will get better over time. Everyone says that they can understand me, so I guess that's good. I still think I don't sound good, but I think I will always be more critical of myself. Overall, I am a work in progress.
In one of my earlier post, I had mentioned our friend Ashleigh who was battling breast cancer. I was able to be a part of a very moving and special moment this past Friday. Ashleigh and I were able to sync up a couple of our radiation treatments so that we could have a moment to chat about everything that has been going on. Well this past Friday, she received her very last radiation treatment. This was very inspiring and emotional. It's pretty much every emotion you can wrap up in at one moment. Her husband and son were able to watch her through the outside glass RING THE BELL for that last treatment. Congratulations Ashleigh!!! You are an inspiration, my friend!