I had my first of 33 radiation treatments yesterday, and I’m just glowing! The appointment began with me meeting the technicians that will be helping me each day. They took the time to explain the equipment and show me that while I would be in the room alone at times, there were cameras and microphones in the room so that they could monitor me and come assist me if I called for help. I took this as both reassuring and a caution not to do anything embarrassing because people could be watching.
The first step in radiation is taking your clothes off from the waste up. I then had my choice of designer capes to wear. I chose the fleece one because it was bright and colorful and didn’t look like a hospital gown. I quickly learned to keep a firm grip on the front of the cape as it tended to fly over my shoulder as I walked through the halls. Is it still considered “flashing” if you only have one breast?
The techs showed me to the radiation room and pointed out the nice hard radiation table. They have placed my “form” which is monogrammed with my name with a sharpie at the head of the table. I get as comfortable as possible with my hands above my head and an elastic band around my feet. The band keeps people like me from wiggling their feet during radiation. They provide nice handles for you to grip above your head. Snug as a bug I tell you.
They take a series of four x-rays to make sure that I am lined up perfectly, and they write down a series of measurements for future use. The techs tell me that my doctor is off today, so one of her partners would be coming in to verify that I’m lined up correctly. The doctor comes in and introduces himself. Now remember that I’m laying on a table with my arms above my head and a fleece cape partially covering me and obstructing my view. I have been told not to move. Because of my bifocals, I can only see a blurred image of the doctor from the nose up as he waves at me and I chuckle. I tell him that this is the strangest way I have met someone since childbirth.
Everything is set and it is time for radiation. I’m told to breath normally, but not to move. Isn’t that a contradiction? They tell me I won’t feel anything and it will only take a couple of minutes. I grip the handles above my head like they are a lifeline. I feel my heart racing as the machine begins to make noise. I stare at the skylight with images of palm trees and wish I were anywhere but here. I don’t feel anything, but my mind goes to places that are scary. And I hold my breath. I remember that they can see me and force myself to relax my hands and to breath shallow breaths. I’m afraid to take deep breaths in case this makes me move closer to the radiation.
The tech tells me that the rest of my appointments will go much faster and verifies the time for my appointment the next day. I dress quickly and meet my daughter, Danielle, in the waiting room and we leave. She asks me how it went. I can’t talk. I just want out of the building. She understands immediately and starts chatting about the weather. We get in the car and the tears start pouring down my cheeks. Danielle reaches over and holds my hand and we sit quietly for several minutes. How did we raise such a compassionate daughter? I gather myself and say, “Shit!” and we both start laughing. She asks if it hurt, and I tell her no. This is more of a head game for me.
Ever since I was diagnosed, I have wanted to avoid radiation. My husband is surprised by this. He tells me that most people want to get out of chemo and don’t mind radiation. It would be hard to put into words all my fears about radiation, but I will list a couple. I’m afraid of the damage it can cause and the permanence of that damage. In chemo, if you start to get too sick, they stop the chemo. In radiation, the damage doesn’t show up for a while. My other fear is that I have known people who had too much exposure to radiation and have died from it. I realize that we have come a long way, and that if I understand it better, it will lessen my fears. So I will talk with my doctor and work my way through this.
In the meantime, today is a fun day filled with radiation and chemo. A double header! The way I see it, that gives me twice the number of techs and nurses to give a hard time!