February 14, 2011

Radiation station

Thanks to an MRI I know that the tumour has gone greedy and invaded other tissues. This means that operating now is not the best option. The team tell me that my best chances of survival and avoiding a relapse are to undergo chemoradiation therapy before surgery.

Chemo + radiation = therapy

The chemo is not the main part of this treatment and I will be given a low dose 24 hours a day via a very cool tube that enters my arm and stops just near my heart. The chemo is given to help the radiation work; the radiation is the major part of this treatment.

Pelvic party

The radiation therapist basically needs to irradiate (ie. zap) the entire pelvic area with ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation is so strong that it can actually rip off an atom's electrons. The idea is that the radiation will mess up enough atoms in the DNA of the tumour cells that they stop being tumour cells and die.

Collateral damage

A lot of important organs live in the pelvis like the small intestine, bladder and prostate. Other important things live around the pelvis like the testes, penis, anus and hip bones.

These areas don't want the radiation, but they are in the line of fire. The radiation only lasts for a few minutes per day for 28 days, but it can produce enough side-effects to make the strongest of people quiver with anxiety.

Possible side-effects:

  • Impotence
  • Problems peeing
  • Problems pooing
  • My anus could stop working
  • Intestinal bleeding
  • Skin burning and peeling
  • Hip bone damage
  • More cancer (the radiation is strong enough to cause cancer in currently healthy tissues)

I may get these or I may not. The only certainty is that I will be infertile after the treatment. The dose I will be getting is way above the level needed to knock the testes out of action. I'm sad about that, but the actual act of making a baby is not the best part of having kids anyway, right?

As a zoologist I shouldn't show pictures of animals holding hands, but a family is a family no matter how it came about