On Friday, September 28th, I had a radiation oncologist appointment with Dr. Ashish Patel, MD at Holy Redeemer’s Cancer Center. He was warm and had a wonderful sense of humor. The purpose of the appointment was to educate me about the different types of radiation therapy that would most likely be available to me. The options were 6 weeks of radiation Monday through Friday, a more intensive span of 3 weeks of therapy Monday through Friday, or a balloon catheter device which would involve 1 week of therapy twice daily Monday through Friday.
At this point I seem to be a candidate for the balloon catheter device which delivers intensive therapy directly to the site where the tumor was located. It is a relatively new procedure, and research only spans about 5 to 8 years. Dr. Patel says that definitive assumptions are not made until a procedure has been utilized for at least 10-20 years. However, all early research is showing that there is no marked difference in recurrence of cancer when using the balloon catheter compared to a 3 week course of therapy. Because the catheter delivers the radiation to a specific site, it is less invasive and side effects are frequently decreased. This will be my choice of therapy as long as surgical pathology does not indicate I need to take a different approach.
Dr. Patel was concerned about a positive ANA test in my blood work. ANA is indicative of conditions involving connective tissue such as arthritis or lupus. Since I am asymptomatic for any connective tissue diseases, it has proven to be a puzzle. Several doctors have recommended that I pursue further testing with a rheumatologist. I have been ANA positive for about 5-6 years, and I am still alive and healthy! My primary care physician keeps tabs on it but has not pushed me to go for further diagnostics. Apparently patients who are ANA positive and have connective tissue issues, are are not good candidates for radiation. Hence the concern.
This visit, along with other concerns about bloodwork results, and constant scrutiny and recommendations began to make me feel like I didn’t own my own body anymore. It was an odd mixture of frustration and sadness. So much advice was being thrown at me by the medical community and loving friends, it was overload and left me feeling a sense of a loss of control.
. . . and so it is