As Christmas passed we were faced with an appointment on the 29th or 30th of December. This appointment was to take place at the IU Simon Cancer Center where Bri would be receiving her radiation therapy. The closer the day came the more we dreaded it. we desperately wanted to get the fight started but we also did not want to get started if that makes sense. We wanted it to just disappear. Wishful thinking.
When the day came we made our way to Indy. It all felt so surreal checking in and walking the halls to the scan setup room. This appointment was to set up the radiation cycle and have Bri fitted with her mask. We walked into the room that contained all these machines and monitors and Angie and I admitted to each other later that fear welled up inside us as soon as we saw everything. I am not sure how Bri really felt but she did not seem to be too bothered by it. They had Bri lay down on what looked like an MRI table. The technician was really good with her and explained everything he was doing.
Since the radiation was to be administered to the head, she would be fitted with a mask that would immobilize her head while taking treatments. The mask has three pins on it that are used to lock down to the table that she was and would be laying on. He showed Bri the mask, which at this time was just a flat piece of plastic with small holes all through it and three pins, one on each side and one at the top. The flat mask was dropped into heated water that made it pliable and when the technician pulled it out he walked over to the table and laid it on Bri’s face. She complained about the heat so he waited for a second and replaced it over her. Once he lined it up he pressed it down over her face and it formed exactly to the contour. He allowed it to cool and then he went into the other room where he studied the MRI scans to pinpoint where the radiation needed to be directed.
Once this was determined he turned on some laser lights that sent beams from wall mounted emitters to the mask and he took some tape and a sharpie marker and made alignment marks on the mask. This was both very interesting and extremely scary to us. These marks would be used to insure that she was given radiation to the same exact spot every treatment. The doctor who would lead Bri’s radiation team stopped by and we discussed the treatment plan including the possible side effects of radiation to the head. Possible temporary or permanent side effects were given to us including, hearing loss, memory loss, lack of ability to learn past a certain level, and lack of ability to mature beyond her current level. If we were not scared when we got there, we were terrified now.
The treatment plan was to administer radiation each weekday for a period of six weeks beginning January 4th, 2011. This plan would mean her last day for radiation would be February 14th, Valentine’s Day. We were to have an appointment at Riley following her first radiation treatment with the Oncology doctor to find out the chemotherapy regimen that we would have to follow. We were sent home more overwhelmed and hurt than ever. Would we ever wake from this nightmare?