TBI or Total Body Irradiation. As the name suggests, it’s exposing the entire body to radiation. This will, as the transplant consultant put it, kill off any Leukemia cells that are hiding in all the weird and wonderful places in my body. Unfortunately it’s also a fairly intense procedure and will be pretty rough for the patient. But together with intensive chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant, offers the best chance of a cure.
Apparently the dose I will be getting is considered ‘moderate’ in the spectrum of radiotherapy, but high in the world of treating Leukemia. The mega doses are usually given for aggressive tumors. The procedure is split into 8 ‘fractions’, given over 4 days. This typically happens first thing in the morning (around 8:30am) and late in the afternoon (4:30pm). If all goes well and I am admitted on 1 Sept, TBI starts on 4th Sept.
I have mixed feelings about radiotherapy. On one hand it’s necessary to ensure that the disease doesn’t return, but on the other hand, well, it’s radiation. The invisible thing that was so feared when the nuclear powerplant was damaged in the quake and tsunami. It’s something I’ve never experienced before so I am not sure how to react to it. We’ve had X-Rays (radiation) and got sunburnt (also radiation) but we’re also taught that radiation is bad. So placing myself willingly in front of a gamma radiation emitter in the Mega Watt range probably isn’t the most intelligent thing to do.
The consultant who saw me the other day spoke about the side effects of radiotherapy; some of which we already know. Hair loss, sickness, weakness, tiredness, sore mouth, basically similar side effects that you’ll get with chemotherapy only. However the effects of radiotherapy can also be felt up to 12 weeks after treatment. In this case, patients CAN get symptoms similar to a chest infection (shortness of breath, coughing) but is simply a delayed reaction of one of the cell types in the lungs. Easily treatable but patients (and doctors) need to be aware of it.
Radiation can also affect the thyroids. This causes sluggishness, tiredness and unexplained weight gain. Also easily treatable with a pill. Maybe I can use it as a way of gaining weight! 😀
Anyway, it’s going to be in for the transplant in less than 2 weeks. Hopefully it will be the end of chemotherapy treatments and what nots after that. Then I can get on with the rest of my life.