Today marked my fifth day of whole brain radiation, leaving me 10 to go before I'm done with cancer treatment.
Fatigue is supposed to be one of the primary side effects of whole brain radiation, but I can't distinguish it from the fatigue I felt before this phase of treatment began. Add it all up and I'm just freaking tired.
There also have been headaches, which surprisingly surprised the doctors. I figured headaches would be a given since radiation causes the brain to swell.
The treatment itself goes quickly. You lie down with the back of your head resting on a foam mold. A technician places the mesh mask over your face and straps it down tightly – and I do mean tightly. I can understand why some people need to be sedated before treatment.
I'm fine with the mask. I don't have to wear it long. The linear accelerator is on for less than 20 seconds as it treats one half of my brain and then swings around to blast the other half. My total time on the table is around five minutes.
You feel nothing during treatment, but there is an unpleasant odor when the accelerator is shooting out its moon beams. I'm not sure if the smell is just part of the machine or whether it's the radiation interacting with my skull, something I'd prefer not to consider.
Whole brain radiation can cause longer-term cognitive difficulties like memory loss. The brain is supposed to heal from the damage that radiation inflicts, but it can take months.
Chemotherapy has already created some of its promised cognitive problems and I'm afraid the whole brain radiation is making it worse. Writing is difficult. So is reading. I just can't seem to focus on much of anything.
I've never claimed to be a genius, but I have possessed a certain facility with language that seems to have evaporated. It's depressing. I'm supposed to go back to work soon and I'm uncertain about what I'll be able to do.
I knew smoking cigarettes was stupid, but I never realized how stupid they would make me.