I have had a lot of emails asking about Angels mask; how much of her face it covers, why she needs to wear it, how long it stays on for and so on, so I thought I would attempt to explain it in a little more detail for you.
Why does Angel wear a mask? What does it do and what does it feel like?
Firstly, the main reason Angel must wear the mask –
Essentially, it is really important for her to lie still while the treatment is in progress.
When you have proton beam therapy (or radiotherapy) wether it is to treat tumours in the head and neck, or in the case of a brain tumour, it is even more important to be as still as possible. This is to ensure the beam hits exactly the right place.
To help Angel with this, she wears what we call – The Mask – during her treatment. Other patients or medical professionals may also call it a mould, a head shell or a cast.
Shortly after we arrived in Jacksonville, remember I posted about Angel having a ‘CT scan’? Well, in this scan, Angel lay down in the same way she would on the treatment table – where a huggggee machine took special photos of Angels brain tumour and the healthy cells and tissues around it.
From this CT, the simulation team were able to create a Perspex mask a using a special type of material (the same used for making bullet proof vests! – pretty cool eh?) which is made by placing the special fibrous materials in warm water.
This then goes over Angels face (think of it like a warm flannel – but don’t worry – she has holes for her nose and eyes) it doesn’t hurt her at all.
This ensures the mask will mould exactly to her face. The team then took off her mask and let it harden – and, when set – ta da, that is Angel’s mask, and how it was made!
The next stage – wearing the mask.
So, when she goes in for her proton therapy treatment, she lies on that really expensive (but also really hard)!) table… She choses some music (it was the Lion King today, apparently the staff enjoyed singing Hakuna Mattata) the therapist moves her hair and then fits the mask. Once the mask is fit correctly in place on her head, it is also attached onto the treatment table. In effect – Angel is attached to the table by the mask. (Doesn’t she look like a masked super-hero?)
This holds her head and neck in exactly the right position for the proton beam! (If you look closely, you’ll see some tape on the side of the mask with a mark – that’s the point the proton beam is sent through!)
Wearing the mask reduces the possibility of any movement during the the treatment, although I can tell you that Angel is really good a lying perfectly still by now!
She only wears the mask during the treatment itself, which is once a day Monday – Friday.
She doesn’t have to wear it at any other time.
It doesn’t hurt her, and rarely leaves marks (yesterday a little on her chin).
When her treatment is over Angel will be bringing the mask home, decorating it with all her memories of this brain tumour trip and mounting it on the wall!!
Hope this has helped to explain the mask a little more, especially for Angels school friends.
Once again – anything you are curious about – just ask 🙂
P.s managed to get some pictures for you – Pretty super-heroish, eh?