Sometimes it’s about the journey, sometimes the destination, and sometimes, it’s just about the mosquitoes.  (Paraphrasing Gary Larson)

The Mask, my souvenir

Mask Making

To get multiple radiation treatments for the brain, a mask is made to keep the head still.  And I mean still. 

I was so tired the day they made it that it began in a very relaxing way – two people pressing what felt like hot, steaming towels into every crevice of my head and shoulders.  Very nice.  Then they blew fans to cool and harden it.  They pulled the mask away from my face and then snapped it back down.  It was so tight around my neck I immediately grunted (speech is not possible) to complain, and they loosened it.  A bit.

Then they put me in the CT scanner.  Pulled me out and did some laser markings.  Put me back in.  Waited for the doctor to do her measurements of the CT overlay on the MRI scan.  The mask was still so tight on my neck that I could feel every heartbeat.  I already have an arrythmia, and the steroids made it worse.  Those 40 minutes were a psychological challenge, but I made it through.  Once finished, I said something again.  They got a hot gun and loosened the neck up some more.  Thank goodness.


I finished the last one this week.  I had five sessions of Fractionated Stereotactic Radiotherapy in which targeted beams come in from different angles.  There were four separate zaps during each session.  Two involved moving the table I was on, while I tried not to get dizzy. 

The first thing they do is snap down the mask.  Then they pin your arms down with a metal bar.  Then they go away, and you wait.  And wait.  Then you hear a voice reassuring you everything is okay, but they are waiting on a doctor to approve the images.  Then you hear the machines moving, strange lights and smells, and adjustments between each of the four, minute-long zaps.  I talk with Teddy throughout.

The most challenging part remained the mask.  It was so tight that I realized I finally have eyelashes growing in after the chemo that ended a year ago.  It was so tight that when my nasal passages swelled from a light allergy, I struggled to move my skin so that I could open my mouth a bit to breath.  It was so tight I always came out with waffle face.  I learned to prep with antiarrhythmic meds, Afrin, and lots of calming meditation.  It’s finished.  Phew!

And now we wait

There are two brand new chemo drugs out there for HER2+ breast cancer that cross the blood brain barrier.  For a variety of reasons, including side effects, we will wait to see what the radiation does before deciding on next steps.  My next MRI is towards the end of April.  Because of necrosis, images may not yet be clear. 

Prognosis is about a year.  The meds can increase that to two.  But it comes back to “large” and “badly located.”  My goal is to feel better.  My physical therapy for balance has provided hope as I learn to walk normally again.  And as I begin weaning off the steroids, I look forward to the joys of sleep!

People have been so kind and generous.  I truly feel blessed to have all of you in my life. 

9 thoughts on “Treatments

  1. Praying for you Debbie! My heart is with you my friend.

    I’m going to show my kids the picture of the mask. Medical science is remarkable. Even in your life journey, you’re teaching us. You’re amazing Debbie.


  2. I am praying for you Debbie. You’ve been through a lot. I just want you to feel better so I’ll keep praying for strength and for healing.


  3. Oh, my goodness! Your most recent blog is the latest demonstration of your eternal inner strength of spirit. Such a poignant story. Your last few years have been a test of all that you are and you’ve handled it all with strength and acceptance for all the unbearable things happening to your body, except that you are bearing them. You are in my caring thoughts a lot during the day and when I am awake at night. Having you for a buddy is a blessing for me.

    Can we plan on next Saturday for the Ethiopian food outing? 😘

    On Sun, Mar 13, 2022 at 10:03 AM Debbie’s New Journey wrote:

    > dpakaluk posted: ” Sometimes it’s about the journey, sometimes the > destination, and sometimes, it’s just about the mosquitoes. (Paraphrasing > Gary Larson) The Mask, my souvenir Mask Making To get multiple radiation > treatments for the brain, a mask is made to” >


  4. Debbie… I have a thousand things I wish to say to you, but hope you don’t mind if I first share some thoughts with Teddy.

    Dear Teddy,
    So here’s the deal… you are currently residing in the brain of an amazing human being who loves life and has already endured more than her share of challenges. In fact, she has proven herself to be stronger than multiple afflictions prior to you, and I am quite certain that she will defeat you in the same way that she did the others. With that in mind, why not save yourself the struggle, call it a day, and simply disappear? That would be a win-win for both of you, and unless you enjoy being bombarded with chemo and radiation, you can’t ask for anything better than that. So do the right thing and go away.


  5. Dear Debbie,
    I am thinking of you. Here’s one of my favorite Buddhist aphorisms I thought I would share with you. “Fortune comes from one’s heart and makes one worthy of respect.Those who have appreciation are happy. Regardless of the circumstances, the spirit to repay our debt of gratitude will ensure that our lives shine with immeasurable fortune.”


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