For the last 3 years, Lisa has been on a chemotherapy regiment that has kept her cancer in check throughout her body. Well, everywhere but her brain. The brain has a marvelous mechanism called that blood brain barrier which keeps nasty things like bacteria from entering the brain. It also keeps Lisa’s chemo drugs from entering, but, unfortunately, it did not prevent some breast cancer cells from entering. Those wayward cells were the start of her brain tumors. Besides the surgically removed cerebellum tumor, her scans show that she has an inoperable, pea-sized tumor in her occipital lobe.
Whole brain radiation treatment (WBRT) is currently the best weapon for treating her inoperable tumor and “mopping-up” any stray cells left behind in the surgical site or elsewhere in her brain. Lisa started WBRT last week and she has had 3 of 14 treatments. Treatments are everyday except weekends, because brain tumors take the weekend off. Actually, the two days off give the patient and the patient’s body a well-needed rest.
She receives the treatment at a center about 50 minutes from the house and the entire process, from walk-in to walk-out, takes about 10 minutes. While laying on her back a form-fitted, mesh mask is placed over her face and head. The mask is secured to the table to ensure that her head does not move and that the beams are lined up precisely. The mask was formed during her first visit. It starts out as a warm, pliable, plastic material that is draped over her head and face. As it cools, it hardens into the shape of her face and head. The weave of the mesh is rather course so she can breathe easily and see through the mask when it is in place.
The most obvious side effect of WBRT is hair loss. The most prevalent side effect is an increase in fatigue. Fatigue will last through the treatment and for possibly weeks afterwards. There are several other possible side effects, like short-term memory loss and multitasking difficulty, which some but not all patients experience. Hopefully, Lisa will be in the group that avoids all of these other side effects. As far as the hair loss issue goes, she’s counteracting that by sporting her Cleopatra headdress!