Solid Pain Relief, No Bones About It

On Wednesday, I finished my fifth and final session of radiation therapy to my troublesome spine tumors at L5 and T7. I received a total of about 30 gray (Gy) to each spine site, which is the unit for radiation measurement of absorbed dose. As hoped, the treatment already alleviated some of my more severe pain, which should only improve as the radiation continues to exert its effects and decrease the size of the targeted tumors.

With a background in radiopharmaceuticals, I’ve been a strong proponent of radiation therapy for some time. Despite the improvement in surgical techniques and advances in systemic therapies, management of patients with metastatic bone disease remains a powerful cornerstone for the radiation oncologist. Nothing works quite like radiation to reduce bone pain!

That same day, I also received an intravenous infusion of Zometa® (zoledronic acid). The drug belongs to a class of bone-strengthening agents called bisphosphonates. Zometa used to both prevent and treat skeletal complications in patients with bone metastases due to all solid tumors.

Within three days after zoledronic acid injection administration, an acute phase reaction has been reported in some patients. Symptoms may include fever, fatigue, bone pain and/or joint pain, muscle pain, chills, and influenza-like illness.

Michael Becker received a flu shot at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC)

Sure enough, about 4 am ET Thursday morning I could not keep warm in bed despite layering several blankets (and a 90-pound golden retriever). I was shivering but didn’t have a fever. The buttock discomfort also came raging back, but this pain flare phenomenon is common with both radiation therapy and bisphosphonate use. I couldn’t do much at all yesterday concerning activity, but the symptoms usually resolve within a few days, and today (Friday) I’m already feeling better.

During my appointment on Wednesday, I also had a treatment planning procedure called a simulation for more radiation therapy targeting my spleen (I received about 9 Gy in a single session last time). The simulation is where your treatment site is mapped so you get the right dose of radiation directed to cancer with minimal exposure to nearby healthy tissue. During the procedure, my torso was marked with permanent little tattoo dots and CT scans were taken to identify the area that will be treated in subsequent visits. As of now, the spleen radiation is set for five sessions/appointments at MSKCC in late October.

Importantly, during Wednesday’s visit, I also received the annual influenza vaccine. While you should get the flu shot to protect yourself against the virus, it is also important to help protect many immune compromised cancer patients (and others at risk) who use public transportation and are constantly exposed to people sneezing and coughing. PLEASE get your flu shot today to help protect them (and do it for you!).

7 thoughts on “Solid Pain Relief, No Bones About It

  1. Do you know how/why they decide to use (or not use) tattoos for radiation?
    When my wife got radiation (axilla), they used markers and protective clear stickers. Her therapy regimen was daily for something like two or three weeks.

    • I know that some patients refuse tattoos for religious or other objections. I don’t know many adhesives that would stay on me for a week or so. The tattoos are the size of a pen tip, so they don’t bother me.

  2. I think ur flu certificate in the pic was a ruse to show off your macho tattoo and muscles😉.
    Seriously, it was good to see u with a smile. Our prayers continue for you (and ur ladies) and you’re constantly in our thoughts. Glad this trip to NY was not met with the same NJ transit turmoil as last time. I will be making you some pumpkin cookies soon…hang in there💕

    • Shucks, you know me too well Carolyn! Thanks for the thoughts and prayers but also advance gratitude for the forthcoming cookies! 🤗

  3. Glad to hear about the pain relief!! (and I’m with Carolyn on the Muscles/Tattoos theory – haha.)
    Apparently I’ll be getting radiation, (or they are leaning towards proton therapy) on the lymph nodes on both sides of my neck.
    So I’m figuring I’m going to have little dot matrix tattoos on both sides of my neck… ?? Maybe after they finish i’ll connect the dots and tell people they’re constellations. 😀

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