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Next Order Of Business, And A Path Crossed, Too
One of the things that can be an issue for cancer in the bone is that the tumor munching away at bone can cause weakness to the affected bone and that can result in a break. Before Dr. Cristofanilli would start treatment (radiation and drug therapy), he wanted to know what was going on with the bone. Even though I wasn’t complaining of pain in the hip area (indicating a possible break), he suspected that I may need to have surgery to provide support to the weakened bone, and if that was the case, I’d have that done first before radiation or drug treatment. He referred me to orthopedics for a consult/Xray. In the meantime, he recommended that I cool my jets on big walks, running, jumping on pogo sticks, lifting heavy objects - basically anything that could result in the bone breaking.
The appointment with Dr. Attar in orthopedics was rather uneventful. The bone was still very much intact - showing no sign of fracture, thus no surgical intervention needed. This meant I could get started with treatment of the tumor.
Soon after my appointment with Dr. Attar, I met with radiation oncology. As promised from Coincidences, I Think Not, Cy-Fair folks, this next part of the story may be fun for you…
As appointments go, you start out with a medical assistant. This person collects you from the waiting room, takes you to a room, checks your vitals, confirms your medications - standard stuff. After this person leaves, sometimes a nurse comes in and visits for a bit, gathers more information. At this particular appointment, a resident/intern came in to visit, learn about the me, gather history and so on before my radiation oncologist saw me to meet me and finalize my treatment plan.
Dr. Randall (resident) sat down across from me in the exam room and started chatting with me. He was polite, relaxed, friendly. He was curious to know how I ended up at Northwestern Medicine/Chicago. I told him that I was originally treated for cancer down at MDAnderson in Houston. He said he’d seen that on my records, and shared that he was from the Houston area. I asked where he was from, and at first, he responded like I’d probably not know the area. I told him that not only had I been treated in Houston, but my husband and I had lived in Houston for over 20 years, and I was very familiar with the city and surrounding suburbs.
Turns out he was from Cypress! Cypress, Texas! This cannot be! I started drilling down. I naturally assumed he’d gone to school within Cy-Fair ISD, and I was right! Turns out he graduated from CyWoods!!! And Cy-Fair people, you know what middle school feeds into CyWoods? That’s right! It’s Goodson Middle School! I was practically jumping out of my seat at this point - what are the chances?!
Barely able to contain myself, I asked, “When??? When did you go to Goodson??”
“Let’s see - 2006 to 2009,” he replied
“I canNOT believe this!!! I was your Director of Instruction when you were in middle school!!! I was working at Goodson when you were a student there!!!”
Both of our minds were blown! He recalled a few of his teachers, but I think he was drawing a blank because he, too, was stunned by our shared moment in time. We enjoyed and were amazed by the smallness of our world. I also considered the fact that here I was, asking if this was just a coincidence, and again, I decided, it was not. And now here I was sitting with Dr. James Randall, former Goodson Middle School student, and he along with Dr. Donnelly, my radiation oncologist, walked me through this phase of treatment
Radiation treatment has certainly changed since 2007. When I received radiation in the winter of 2007, I had 30 sessions (five days a week for six weeks). This time around I was scheduled for three treatments; that’s it. I couldn’t help wondering if because I would have 1/10th of the sessions I’d had in 2007, would I be getting 1/10th the radiation. The answer was no. Treatment in 2021 was more targeted and powerful, so very simplified, 3 was essentially the new 30.
Prepping for radiation was a fairly similar experience - a cradle was made for me that meant that each time I laid in it, I would lay in the exact same position. Fine tuning of the way I laid was done with three tattooed dots (as if someone took a blue ballpoint pen and made a little mark) near each hip bone and one in the center of my hips (below my waist). These dots would be reference points for lining up the beams of radiation. This was a big difference from 2007 when I had red, green and blue magic marker lines drawn all over the right side of my torso. This was kind of a challenge and a mess because I had to do my best to not wipe away the lines, and any clothing I wore was smudged red, green and blue. So three tiny tattooed dots were a big and welcome change to the process.
There was nothing to the actual radiation itself - couldn’t feel anything - an added bonus was that I wasn’t pressed between acrylic plates or contorted as I had been in 2007. And this time around, my skin was spared - no severe burning of the skin. It was a very easy, painless and quick part of 2021 cancer treatment.
Radiation was over and done so quickly, so as soon as I started, I was finishing. And as for my path crossing with Dr. Randall? He found me to say “good bye” on my last day of treatment. Turns out we were both finishing up in radiation oncology. I was on to medical oncology next, and he was starting a new rotation in a different department.
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