Well gosh darn it, the route to wellness keeps changing. We thought that surgical resection was possible, and that would be preferrable. Instead, the new team (neurosurgeon, ENT surgeon, and medical oncologist) report that the scans show that the risk benefit ratio doesn’t work out in Mark’s favor to consider surgery at this time. The tumor is too close to the optic nerve and to the carotid artery. That’s a major blood vessels that supplies blood to his head, neck, and face. Kina want to keep that one intact.
So zap the heck out of the tumor it is. Mark’s radiation starts on December 9. Five days per week for six weeks, they will deliver to the tumor the highest dose of radiation that is tolerable using IMRT (Intesity-Modulated Radiation Therapy). They start with creating a mask. Picture a fencing mask filled with tiny holes and made of plastic that can be molded to exactly fit Mark’s head. Every time Mark goes for radiation, Mark will lie on a table and they will put him in the mask, fix the mask onto the table to keep Mark completely immobile, and then roll him into the machine. The radiation machine can deliver radiation the conforms to the shape of the tumor, with the radiation technician watching a realtime scan of Mark’s skull while administering the treatment.
To keep the tumor on it’s toes, Mark will also get the highest dose of chemo possible every three weeks. These chemo treatments will start with a blood test to make sure everything’s going okay, and then fluids to keep his kidneys healthy, and then anti-nausea meds, and then the chemo followed by a chaser of one more bag of fluids.
The side effects are daunting. The chemo brings the usual crapping stuff: nausea, fatigue, loss of taste, poor appetite, and just for some variety, the potential for hearing loss as this chemo drug can accumulate in your ears. The radiation is next level. In no particular order, it can include possible loss of vision, more hearing loss, fatigue, loss of salivary gland function, difficulty swallowing, weight loss, possible feeding tube if he can’t keep up his weight, open wounds in the mouth, tooth decay, bone loss in jaw.
I’ve never climbed a big mountain. I think I’m about to. Mark is embarking on six weeks of truly unimaginable challenge. He needs prayers. We will need support. The former, we know that all you caring, loving friends and family will give. We are grateful for life every day. Mark is fighting. Stay with us.