Monday, March 2, 2009

Sorry, no superpowers

This morning, despite the weather, we took The Boy to the radiation oncologist. Thankfully, Musical Daddy had a snow day, so he was able to go to the appointment. I hope that he feels a bit better about the whole process...

Even though it still sucks.

The doctor was very friendly and explained everything pretty well. My mother and my father-in-law were both in attendance, and both of them have had radiation, so they had some questions that we may not have thought of.

Assuming that they do the standard treatment that is a part of his protocol, he will go there seven times, with the first time being when they fit him for a mold of some sort that will put him in the exact same position each time. The next time, he will have imaging along with the radiation. The five times after that will be, pardon the word choice, zap-zap and he's done.

Good things: word on the street is that radiation is a cakewalk compared to chemotherapy. My father-in-law was treated with only radiation for his prostate cancer, and he only started feeling tired toward the end. My mother was also treated with radiation and she echoed the sentiment about being tired, and also said that she had what amounted to a sunburn. The Boy is receiving a much lower dose, and the doctor said that for him, immediate side effects would be minimal. We will give him his Zofran regularly, because nausea is a possibility. Additionally, he could have issues with blood counts. Radiation can affect red cells, white cells, and platelets. We'll find out when and if he needs to visit the treatment center to monitor his blood.

Bad things: although there are not many immediate side effects, with children the concern is late effects. As I may have mentioned, the radiation could have an effect on his growth in the area where he is radiated. He could end up having a slightly shorter sitting height because his midsection might grow a little less. It doesn't sound like a major problem, and we hope that it will not be. Another possibility, which the doctor said was very unlikely but couldn't be ruled out, is a secondary cancer in the radiated area that could develop later on. Furthermore, the radiation could affect kidney function. Since he will be followed by the oncology team and a nephrologist already, I don't see these as new concerns. Granted, the rareness factor doesn't mean beans to us, since childhood cancer is rare, Wilms tumor is rare, Wilms tumor shows up more often in girls, and chemo is supposed to work the first time. Nevertheless, there's not much of a choice, and if it keeps the cancer away, we'll do it.

Annoying things: for all of the treatments, The Boy will need to be sedated. He will need to go without food for 6 hours and without clear liquids for 2 hours. Because this process has happened rather quickly, scheduling was a bit of an issue. On Wednesday, The Boy needs to be there at 9:30 for an 11:00 procedure. He will not be too thrilled about having to wake up for a 4:40 breakfast (has to be done eating by 5) and will be less thrilled about having to wait for lunch. The plan is to wake him for breakfast, try to go back to sleep, and meet Grandpa for an 8:30 mall walk before going to the appointment at 9:30. Thursday's is even worse; it is a 2:00 session with a 12:30 arrival time. He will be able to eat his normal breakfast, finishing up by 8:00, but he has to go without any other food after that. My job will be to keep him out of the house and away from food in general that day; I'll probably bring him to Musical Daddy at some point so that I can eat.

Fortunately, the other appointments are at 7:00. It means getting up extra early, but it also means fewer issues for The Boy in terms of food and an otherwise normal day after treatment. Also, the other appointments are very short--waiting around for sedation is the longest part of the process.

Assuming that the weather doesn't get worse, The Boy has physical therapy today. The therapist will come to the house at 1-something.

I am so very proud of The Boy. He has really progressed developmentally over the past month or so. He is walking more, he is saying more words, and he is following directions. You know, when he wants to.

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