Cyber Knife in Ottawa

Lately I don’t write much about treatment experiences. This is because the blog has simply evolved beyond that. Back when I was first diagnosed, I was all over chronicling what it is like to have a mastectomy or chemotherapy or radiotherapy or IV C or alternative therapies.

But now, well – chemo is chemo; radiation is radiation; and complementary therapies are very complimentary. My daily life involves dealing with these things. And a million phone calls to the hospital and other services. None of this feels remarkable anymore.

However, cyberknife is pretty cool, I gotta say. And the fact that we have it here in Ottawa is excellent. We’re a very lucky city.

One of the first questions the cyber knife technician asked me in passing conversation was, “So did you come from out of town?” because this is a service not available everywhere. I think cyberknife didn’t arrive in Ottawa until about 2010 or something. The Ottawa Hospital Foundation fundraised 3.5 million from awesome donors to bring this to Canada’s capital.

While I cannot tell you everything about it, I can try to relate what I’ve experienced here, because I want to express my gratitude for being able to access this service. And for once, I don’t want to complain about the hospital. J (Because really I am grateful for everything. It just gets to be too much at times and I need to vent.)

Cyber knife does feel to different from radiation in general: there is a table you lay in. You go in for X amount of sessions (fewer in general, I think) and then you leave to deal with the side effects later. But it is different – significantly so. Rather than targeting a whole wide area of your body, the cyber knife – or sterotactic my radiation doctor has called it – is more like a precise surgery, using hundreds of radiation beams.

So I rock up to the appointment last week ready to roll. Nervous as heck, but ready to roll. I have my water bottle, slippers, butt pad, DVD selection (Fantasia mostly, for last week) and sweater. While normal radiation takes minutes, cyber knife takes longer. It’s so very precise, they need to line things up quite carefully.

I give them my DVD and ask if I can have a blanket put over me.

(Now, I’m not sure whether all cyberknife places have giant flat screens on the ceiling above the treatment table. But they should! In my opinion, television is better distraction than the Ambien they offered me. Watching Fantasia chilled me right out.)

Shout out to Laurie at Not Just About Cancer for letting me know there was a DVD player in the room!

The folks are quite efficient. I barely have a chance to even look at the machine before my face mask is clamped over my head. It makes me wonder if everyone getting this treatment has a different kind off mask – body mask, leg mask, etc…because the ‘surgery’ is so precise, they really do need to ensure things are lined up properly.

Anyhow, then the interesting stuff starts to happen. Frankly, I try  not to focus upon it. It’s interesting in a freaky way. There is this big white arm with a laser on it that reminds me a bit of HAL of A Space Odyssey, in that it reminds me of an eye, and a robot. So HAL the radiation robot moves around me here and there and there and here. It does this for quite some time. Sometimes I hear it shooting out the bursts of radiation, sometimes not. But on and on it goes.

Meanwhile I lay on the table and watch the movie. I’m allowed to take breaks if needed, and I do. It’s no big deal. Every time HAL moves into my view I close my eyes, because I don’t want to look at him. And then peek my eyes open to see if he has left my field of view.

This goes on, and then it is done.

It is okay. Long. Not comfortable due to my worsening hip…but okay.

Until the DVD stops….and then I get very jumpy. But thankfully with a wave of my hand the techs come in and quickly change up the entertainment, and I can disappear again into another film or show.

Like other radiation, it can apparently cause burning and itching and hair loss (and they hair may or may not grow back). Short terms side effects apparently last a week. Long term side effects…well, we will see.

Overall the goal here is to get my brain a bit under control. This is no cure – the cancer is now in the brain tissue, and that is a big problem. But it is a method of controlling the impact of the cancer. It’s really having an impact on my cognitive abilities. I simply cannot process quickly, and my left side of many things feel a bit behind my right side.

And then there is the rest of my body … but I won’t digress into a pool of pity. Not for the moment. Maybe later. I am doing what I can.

We’ll see how this goes.

One step at a time.

And that is just a little bit about cyber knife. It is doable. And better if you can bring in something to distract you during treatment. If no DVD, then music is a must.



7 thoughts on “Cyber Knife in Ottawa

  1. So glad the DVD helped. I really appreciated the distraction. Someone donated the TV, between the first and second times I had the treatment — and for me this was a huge difference. Personally, I found I had more short term side effects than longer term ones (fatigue, nausea) and my scalp got a bit burned when I had 4 treatments, 4 days in a row (but not, oddly, when I just had one long one). I never lost my hair with cyber knife.

  2. Cyberknife is doable; I can attest to that. Been there, done that, and dont want the t-shirt. Glad the procedure is over for us, at least for now. We live from scan to scan. Wish I could add more to the discussion but my typing is bad. I am glad you could share this with us. You are not alone. xox

  3. Nice! We need a TV! They just do SRS and avoid breaks because they don’t want to have to line you up again, you throw the whole thing off. AGHAGHGHGHGHG. May those mets shrink, go away and never be heard from again!

  4. Pingback: Weekly Round Up | Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

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