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Sharing My Experience with Stereotactic Radiosurgery, by Patricia Sinatra

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I had this procedure at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital on January 18, 2007.  I wanted to share my account of the day with others who are facing this treatment. The doctors and nurses explained the sterotactic radiation treatment thoroughly and then asked if I was interested in seeing a video on the treatment that was conducted in a Boston hospital.  The video was informative but left me with great concerns.  So arrangements were made for me to speak to someone who had undergone the treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering. I found the conversation to be helpful and reassuring, but I was still anxious. This feeling is to be expected.

  6:45 a.m.   Arrived for 7:00 a.m. appointment with my husband and daughter. Wear comfortable clothing and sneakers. I’d suggest a short sleeve top and bring a button down sweater. The temperature can vary in different rooms and you want the flexibility to make yourself comfortable.

  7:30 a.m.   I was brought to a room and the nurse assigned to me, took my blood pressure, pulse, and temperature. The nurse also gave me a pill to help me relax.

  8:00 a.m.  Stereotactic Head Frame was attached by two doctors and a nurse.  I was advised to keep my eyes closed during the attachment ­ and did so.  The doctors will talk to you throughout the procedure explaining every step. The attachment involves first measuring the frame to the head to have a snug fit.  Once the frame is snug, the doctors and nurse will work as a team to inject the medicine to numb your scalp in four areas where the frame is held to your head with small pins. The wearing of the crown all day is doable with a little discomfort but nothing like the video (it is not massive) or my overactive imagination. 

  9:00 a.m. CT Scan for the Treatment Planning Stage.  Read the booklet that is given to you, as it describes the process and the day very accurately. 

  9:30 a.m. ­ 4:00 p.m.  Following the scan, I was taken to an alcove room where I spent most of the day waiting and sleeping.  I had breakfast and then slept most of the morning. Sleeping is highly recommended by nursing staff. We had brought 5 movies (DVDs) to watch ­but didn’t watch any.  It was good for my husband to have my daughter with him because I certainly wasn’t much company.  My family stayed with me when I was awake. 

  I woke up at 12:30 p.m., had lunch and then played cards with my daughter. It was enough of a distraction that did not require too much concentration. The nurses check with you constantly to be certain that you are comfortable. I had a headache and asked for Tylenol and within an hour the headache was gone. 

  4:30 p.m.   I was given a second pill to help me relax before the treatment.

5:00 p.m. Stereotactic Radiation Treatment.  The staff is very kind and supportive and wants to make certain that you are comfortable. They asked if I wanted to hear music or if I needed a blanket.  I asked for both, although in hindsight, I might have brought in a Sinatra disk.  To pass the time during the treatment, I kept my eyes closed, enjoyed the music and relaxed. Within 45 minutes the treatment was over.

  6:35 p.m. The crown was taken off in the private alcove, again only slight discomfort.  I asked for Tylenol before the crown was removed.

  7:20 p.m. Released and went home to eat dinner.  There were two patients being treated on the day I had the procedure, so my waiting time was a bit longer.  As it was a long day, I was tired.  I slept fairly well the night following surgery, as I was told I would.  I did have a headache during the night and again took two Tylenol. The next day, I got up, showered and have not experienced any discomfort. 

 Certainly facing this procedure you will have many concerns, but honestly, do not be afraid.  If you would like to talk with me about my experience, please contact me (psinatra@verizon.net) and I will give you a call.                                                                          

 Patricia Sinatra, Metastatic Breast Cancer Survivor, Age: 52