This afternoon we took Hannah to CARTI in Little Rock for her first tomotherapy radiation treatment. We met briefly with the oncologist/radiologist who explained to us that she will have a total of 20 treatments to be completed over a period of four weeks. The tomotherapy radiation is different in that they will be treating her entire head and spine, rather than a single focused area as they did previously. He explained to us that anywhere the spinal fluid flows is a potential area for tumor growth, so they have to treat the entire area. He also told us that this time she will lose all of her hair, instead of just patches of hair like she did last time, which she was able to hide so easily. He also went over all of the possible side effects from treatment, and it is a rather lengthy list. He told us that she will probably not be able to attend school at all during these treatments. He gave us prescriptions for an anti-nausea medication (Kytril) and for steroids, but told us not to start the steroids unless she begins to have severe headaches or worsened nausea.
They did another CT scan today, while she was in the tomotherapy machine, to make sure the alignment was exactly right, and then did the radiation treatment. The entire process took about 35 minutes, but from now on, each treatment will only take about 12 minutes. On the way home, we had a bit of a scare. We were nearly home when she began to develop a severe headache, pressure in her ears, and nausea. We got her home as quickly as we could and called CARTI. The on-call doctor I talked to (it was after hours by this time) explained that the tumors had probably swelled due to the radiation and that was what was causing the problem, and that we should go ahead and start her on the steroids. He said that she would probably have this reaction the first few times she had the treatment, but it should get better over time, and they could cut back on the steroids gradually at that point. I had already given her some Tylenol by this time, and she was feeling somewhat better, but we started her on the steroids in hopes that we could avoid this problem tomorrow. She is resting comfortably right now.
I think the reality of how difficult the next few weeks and months of treatment may be really hit all of us today. Hannah has been amazing though...when we told her today what the doctor said about her hair, she said, "Well, it's only hair...it'll grow back." Her faith is so strong, and she is truly an inspiration to us. In spite of the storms and emotions swirling in and around us, God has given us a peace as well, a peace that can only come from Him. A dear friend of mine wrote in an email that we can just rest in His "Godness" and that's what are doing.
We have received so many wonderful emails, cards, phone calls, gifts, meals....it's amazing how much those things mean in a time of storm like this. There are too many emails to personally respond to all of them, but I am printing out every one for Hannah to read and for us to keep. All we can say is, "Thank you!" You all make it easy to remember that God is good, all the time!
Jill & Brad