Archive for August 27th, 2009

I’ve had six radiation treatments so far, out of a total of thirty.  The daily process is really very quick and painless (it’s those side effects that won’t be so painless over time).  Driving to the Cancer Center, changing into a gown, and get positioned perfectly on the table takes much more time than the actual treatment.  Most days I’m in and out of there in about ten minutes – fifteen if I stop to have a conversation with Lucille whose radiation appointment is right after mine.

When I walk into the radiation room, there are two monitors on one wall that have my name and some data on them.  One also has a photograph of my naked pelvis on the screen (with a big box drawn with a Sharpie on my abdomen, reminding me of a meat cut diagram). I was a little taken aback the first time I saw it and warned them that “I better not see that photo ending up on Facebook…”

Meat Cut Diagram

Meat Cut Diagram

The radiation techs have the table set up for me with a headrest, sheet, and my personal leg mold ready for me to climb onto.  Once I’m lying down with my arms folded up on my chest (out of range of the radiation) and my legs in the mold (causing my hips and pelvis to be in the same position each time), they begin to make small adjustments to my torso so that the laser beams line up exactly with my three tattoos.  There’s one on my abdomen, just below the bikini line, and one on each hip.  The machine is programmed to send radiation to a very specific place and they want to be certain the exact same area gets treated each time, so getting me into position is critical to the overall process.

The tattoos are just small green dots, so they’re not really noticeable. Since they are permanent (and I’ve managed to avoid tattoos for 48 years), I’m glad they’re not obvious. They actually tend to get lost among all the moles I have – to the point that the radiation folks like to pull out that Sharpie and draw various circles and boxes on me to indicate where a tattoo is! At any given time I’ve got a whole bunch of designs drawn on me.

Once they’re satisfied that I’m set up properly, they leave the room.  A large avocado green machine with a big square window directed at me starts out just above my abdomen and makes a buzzing sound for about six seconds as it sends the radiation. Then it rotates around below the table to send a blast from underneath me. Next it rotates to my right side and does its six second buzz before rotating over to my left to get the final side.

The techs come back in and help me out of mold and off the table. I get dressed and I’m done. As simple as it all sounds, it’s still a little eerie to experience. I can’t actually feel anything as it’s happening, but there is a psychological component to wrestle with each time I hear the machine do its buzz. A few hours later I usually have a bout of fatigue for a while.  I’m also beginning to have increasingly more diarrhea, which they’ve predicted will only worsen over time, so I’ll have to start carrying Imodium around with me when I’m not at home!

That’s the process every day at 1:15, except for Wednesdays when I’m in the Chemo Infusion room most of the day and the radiation folks simple come get me whenever they have an opening to squeeze me into.  I wheel my pole with the chemo drip on it down the hall to the radiation room and get on the table while I’m hooked up to the chemo.  Since I can be in my street clothes for chemo treatments, the radiation techs generally just let me take my jeans and panties off and I get on the table without a gown on those days.  They’ve seen me enough times by now that it’s no big deal anymore.

After today’s treatment, I’m being whisked off to have tea with one of my dear yoga instructors.  Every small treat takes on more meaning these days.  And I so appreciate all the ways my friends and family are offering their support.  Thank you all.

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