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Monday, June 3, 2013

Countdown to radiation


Believe it or not . . . that is my bust and I’m not even famous. But more on the process of making that mask a bit later. Indeed, the countdown has begun for my stereotactic spine radiation (Can I hear an “amen?”). I will only have one round of targeted radiation to my C7 vertebrae at MD Anderson on Monday, June 10 at 3pm. As Chris mentioned in the previous post, we met with my radiation surgeon, Dr. Brown, on Thursday and he better explained stereotactic spine radiation and what it entailed (reference my sweet mask above). We really liked Dr. Brown, and once again, we see God’s hand in that since we were originally supposed to see Dr. Settle. First of all, Dr. Brown is tall and you can always trust tall people. Secondly, he was warm, genuine and incredibly Type A . . . just the way I like ’em. He was answering my questions before I could ask them. Dr. Brown said they were ridiculously OCD about this procedure with several accuracy checks (for which I am grateful), so I believe the total process from start-to-finish will be 1 hr 45 minutes to 2 hours – although the actual radiation time will be less.

He also relayed encouraging news, and this girl with a rare cancer is always up for that. He said this type of radiation is short but very powerful (there is basically two weeks worth of old school radiation packed into this under-an-hour blast of targeted and highly precise radiation). Bottom line – he said even five years ago, conventional radiation wasn’t very effective on a radiation-resistant tumor like mine. However, with this highly precise radiation, it is 90% effective. For once, a statistic that makes me smile and that stat doesn’t include the power of prayer and a mighty God (Can I get another “amen?”). So, our biggest prayer concerning this radiation is that it will work and totally eradicate the tumor in my C7 vertebrae – F-O-R-E-V-E-R. My heart’s desire is to walk away from this treatment feeling confident and 50% clean - one tumor down, one more to go. The other good news is that side effects to this radiation, be it long-term or short-term, are minimal (sore throat & inflammation). Even when they are serious (paralysis), the percentages are low (1%). He said I could go home the day after treatment and start chemo shortly after. Again, our prayer is that God will protect me from any potential side effect and I will leave MDA with a spring in my step, smile on my face, and a nice mesh pattern imprinted on my forehead. Speaking of . . . here’s my customized bean bag bed and mesh mask.

On Friday, I believe I had seven people, including a physicist, shaping this bean bag, air-infused bed around my body and telling me to relax and breathe as they formed this custom mesh mask to my face as I rested my head on a pedestal. They said, “Pretend it’s a warm facial.” Yeah, right! They marked my stomach with permanent markers & clear tape (see below) and ensured my spine was lined up perfectly from head-to-toe, thanks to CT scans. Because my eyes were closed, I have no idea what else they did but I was formed in this hardened mold for about 45 minutes and I believe it will be very similar the day of the procedure. I am thankful for Ativan (a form of Valium) and encouraged to know I have a nice long neck perfect for the procedure (at least that is what they told me).

Here I am “picking” on my alter ego. Below are the markings I am supposed to keep on my stomach for another eight days.



All in all, our time at MD Anderson was much more encouraging than our first go-round. We are so grateful for God’s specific provision and the care of so many during our time at MDA. I will leave you with some specific prayer requests as well as some fun photos of Alexa. There were some rough spots for her (and Mommy) throughout the week, but as a whole, she had a contagious smile on her face. One I am always eager to see after a day of appointments and tests.

-- As you can see from the mask, I will be immobile during the radiation. I am still a bit freaked out about needing to sneeze, having a muscle twitch, or let’s be honest, having a panic attack during the radiation. Would you please pray for peace and indescribable confidence in a big God who can hold me safely in His hand?
-- That this radiation would be effective in eradicating the tumor from my C7 vertebrae forever & for a speedy recovery.
-- For logistics to be hammered out concerning the start date of my chemo in OKC. For clear communication between Dr. Benjamin at MDA & Dr. Keefer at Mercy.
-- I also need to have another MRI of the tumor in my right forearm prior to chemo (this will serve as the baseline to measure the effectiveness of my chemo). We are trying to get that scheduled while we are at MDA.
-- For a restful week at home but discipline to continue getting strong through exercise, nutrition & time with Jesus.
-- That our attitudes would be an honest reflection of Christ to those around us.
-- For healing – total & complete God-glorifying healing!






  1. Praise God from Whom all blessings flow for making this round better and for more answers. I love the mask--it is so you! I will pray for all the above requests! I love you mucho! ArVel

  2. Praying for 100 percent elimination of your tumor and can't wait till Monday! I know god will heal you and we will have one down.. One more to go!

  3. Continuing to pray for you and your family. We are trusting God for a complete healing for you and for you as you go thru the process. If nothing else, I've found being in things like this mask are good opportunities to focus on God and pray. Sue and Paul Zeeb

  4. Praying for you, your family, and the doctors treating you. May your days be filled with blessings.

  5. Oh Kelsey, I'm so excited to read your update. many answered prayers. Just brought tears to my eyes to be honest. praying for you and thanking God for His mercy! Melinda