Sunday, November 13, 2016

every week. in pictures.

I have now had 24 treatments of Intrathecal Herceptin. A few weeks ago, my friend Karin came and took photos. They were for me (because I can't see my own head) and they helped me a lot to understand the process. It's occurred to me that some of you might like to see them too. 

Every week, I am placed in a private room. It's been the same room every time and I have come to think of it as mine. I get the usual "pre-meds" of intravenous Gravol (dramamine) and Demerol (meperidine) that I have had for years with Herceptin to keep from having a reaction

My oncologist (only doctors are trained to deal with the Ommaya Reservoir), comes in after the meds have kicked in. This is what it looks like before treatment (after my hair is combed out of the way).

Dr. G shaves the Ommaya to sterilize it.

Iodine is the next step in sterilization. Rubbing alcohol comes after.

We joke around and laugh a lot at the beginning of every appointment. I look forward to that
part. The atmosphere turns very business-like during the actual treatment. I appreciate that, too.

Before treatment, a sterile cover is put on my head, with a convenient hole in it.

The needle is injected in the Ommaya. It doesn't hurt. Really (remember, that's iodine. I am not bleeding).

Before anything can be inserted, brain fluid must be extracted. This, to me, is the really freaky part.

I will be getting 60 mg of Herceptin, which is about 30 ml (about 1 fluid ounce), so that amount of cerebrospinal fluid is what is taken out of my brain. It will be sent for testing, to see if there are detectable cancer cells. It’s a good sign that the fluid is clear and so far the tests have been negative.

Then the Herceptin goes in. As with the extraction of fluid, it's done over several minutes.

I am the first and only person to have this done in Ottawa, so sometimes I am asked if it's OK to have staff in to observe. I always agree to this.

When it's all over, the needle comes out.

And we are done.

The oncologist leaves and there is a 30 minute observation period. The nurses “take my vitals” after 15 minutes and at the end of the half hour. Then I can go home (except every 4th week, when I stay an additional 90 minutes for the intravenous infusion of Herceptin).

This week, I have a spinal MRI and the following week one of my brain. 

I hope treatment is working.

(Photo credits: Karin Jordan)


Unknown said...

Sending love.

Mel said...

Wow! Thank you for sharing your journey & to Karin for being a great friend & photographer.

Ila said...

I can't help but feel amazed that we live in times where such treatments are possible. All the best Laurie,love and hugs. Xo

Robin Mckenzie said...

Incredible! You are incredible, the science is incredible, your whole health care team is incredible!

Thanks for sharing; so cool that you are on the cutting (or should I say "injecting") edge of science and it's so generous of you to share.

Love and healing to you!

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for sharing these photos with us. It really helps me understand. I pray this treatment is working for you.

Chris said...

Sometimes I forget what a journey living with cancer can be. I don't think I will again after seeing these. The images also reaffirm for me how courageous you are. I am newly in awe of your stamina and staying power. You are amazing.

Unknown said...

Brave, courageous, accepting, honest, open - just some of the plethora of adjectives that come to mind with what you have been living with for as long as I've known you. Huge hugs your way!

Lene Andersen said...

Thank you for posting this. I've been trying to imagine what they do to you and to it was really helpful (and calming) to see the reality. Also somewhat freaky. You are superwoman.

Ann Gentle said...

I so appreciate your honesty and the direct, matter-of-fact way you share both personal and medical stories. Thank you.

laurie said...

That is exactly what I am aiming to do (and to feel), so I really appreciate that feedback.

And everyone's lovely comments.