Friday, February 25, 2011

The big day!

Last night, we picked Jason up from the airport. He flew back out to Boston (thanks Uncle Jimmy!) to be here for Summer's last treatment and help us get back home.

Here's Summer patiently waiting for him at baggage claim:

She didn't spot him in the crowd of people, but once I pointed him out, she jumped out of the stroller and ran to meet him.

Today, Summer finished her final radiation treatment. Her last session this morning went well, and she was in good spirits for her bell ringing. I managed to keep the tears in check, which is quite a feat since I could barely keep from crying when complete strangers would ring the bell. It's a very simple, but emotional thing.

Below are some photos from the last day, and a video of the bell ringing toward the end of the post.

Summer's last day happened to also be a Toy Friday. This is the toy cabinet she got to choose a toy from each Friday. Nurse Rachel, who usually sets it all up, was on vacation, so it's a little less organized than usual but Summer didn't care one bit. Today she chose a giant coloring book.

When we walked into the prep/recovery room, there was a surprise waiting for Summer. Her bed was decorated with a congratulations banner and gifts:

This lucky girl gets to take home her very own monkey puppet, which was one of her favorite toys to play with each day:

After Summer woke up from treatment, we went out to ring the bell. She was pretty anxious to do it - she's been talking about it a lot since she saw Casey ring the bell on Wednesday.

We'll head back over to the proton center on Monday to say goodbye to Nurse Rachel, but Summer couldn't leave today without saying goodbye to Dr Nick, her favorite anesthesiologist:

I don't think it's really hit that she's done, but maybe by the time we get home on Tuesday night. We'll see.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A tour of Gantry 1

At the Proton center here, there are two machines running each day. Every one of Summer's treatments has been in Gantry 1, and today I stuck around a little longer than usual after they put her under to take pictures and watch the process.

FAIR WARNING: some of these pictures may be difficult to look at. They're not gory or graphic by any means, but there are pictures of Summer under anesthesia and wearing her mask, strapped onto the table. Despite everything she's been through in this room, she is never afraid to enter, so that tells you she has no idea that any of this is happening.

This first photo was taken on a different day, but nurse Rachel is on vacation now so we had to get one in early. Each treatment begins with Rachel walking Summer and I down to the gantry.

Summer's favorite part of treatment is visiting with the dancing turtle, who dances to Funky Town:

This is the gantry team - the people who run the actual treatment:

This is Summer's form-fitting mask. It helps to position her head exactly the same way every day. Unfortunately we can't bring it home with us because it absorbs some of the radiation. It would be interesting to keep and look back at to see how tiny Summer was at this point:

In these next photos, Summer has just been put under anesthesia. She's sitting on the table and they're fitting the mask on. Click on the photo to open a larger version.

Once they have the mask on and Summer all wrapped up and strapped to the table, they move the table out into position so it's hanging out inside the machine. Here, the control reads "Target position reached":

This is the part of the machine the actual radiation beam comes out of. The plastic piece on here is designed and contoured specifically to treat Summer's tumor. The divots controls how far the rays will go before stopping. 

She has three sets - one for each of the treatment fields. Here's the next one that will replace the one shown above when they move on to the second field:

These are the monitors in the radiation room - you can see images of Summer's head on the two monitors on the far left.

But, nobody is in the room while the actual treatment is happening. They all move out to this control room where they can monitor Summer's vitals and see everything that's going on in the gantry.

Here's a close-up of the monitor that shows Summer, all wrapped up and ready to go:

Normally, I leave the gantry as soon as Summer goes under and I lay her on the table. It was very interesting to see the whole prep process. I wish I had asked to stay and watch sooner! It's hard to believe tomorrow will be her last day.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A visit with the Hamiltons

My Aunt Sue, Uncle Mark, and cousins Alexis and Lauren came to visit Summer and I last week. They arrived on Thursday evening and stayed through Sunday evening. I hadn't walked or eaten as much in our entire time here as we did over those few days; we had a great time!

On Friday my second cousin, Father Dan Moloney, came by for a visit. Summer took to him very quickly and had him playing hide and seek in the apartment until the Hamiltons joined us and we headed out to a nearby Italian deli for lunch.
Photo credit: the Hamiltons
Photo credit: the Hamiltons
Photo credit: the Hamiltons
Photo credit: the Hamiltons
(Left to Right: Fr Dan Moloney, Summer, Uncle Mark, Alexis, me, Aunt Sue, Lauren)
Friday was one of the warmer days we've had in Boston since we've been here, and we took full advantage of it with a long walk.

After Dan went back to the seminary, we started up Charles Street, which is a fun street to walk. It's full of cute shops and row houses.

Here are Summer and Alexis in one of the shops:

At Boston Common, we played a bit in the "Frog Pond." It was still quite icy and slick on the ground, but that didn't stop Summer from having fun!

From Boston Common, we headed over to Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall:

There, we came across the balloon man:
He spoiled Summer a little:

Saturday was my birthday, and I had a fabulous day. We ate a delicious lunch at PF Changs, had pedicures at the mall (in amazing massage chairs) while my aunt and uncle watched Summer, then hung out at the apartment for the evening.

Summer took a long nap and let us grown-ups watch an entire movie without interruption. Then we ordered in some Indian food for dinner and baked a birthday cake, thanks to the birthday in a box my mom sent. Good thing Alexis paid attention to the balloon man, because she showed us how to make our own balloon shapes with the balloons that came in the box.
(Photo credit: the Hamiltons)

On Sunday, we had a delicious brunch at Cheesecake Factory and wandered through a mall I hadn't been to yet on our way back to the subway.
(Photo credit: the Hamiltons)

Summer loved trying on all the hats at one of the mall kiosks:
From there, we took a little stroll through the Harvard campus, but we didn't stay out for very long because it was so cold that day. Summer had it pretty good though:

Shortly after we got back to the apartment from Harvard, it was time to say goodbye as the Hamiltons headed to the airport and back home. We definitely had a lot of fun and made the most of their time out here!

On Sunday evening, we got together with a couple of Christopher's Haven families for dinner. The kids provided great entertainment to accompany the yummy Omaha Steak dinner. I am really going to miss this group when we're all gone home!

The kids: Casey, Summer and Spencer


And the moms:
(left to right: Denise, Diane, me)
I know I've said this before, but we really will be a little sad to leave our new friends behind. Casey finished treatment this morning and will be heading home tomorrow. It's hard to believe we'll be the next ones to go!

Congratulations Casey! We will miss you guys.