Tag Archive | radiation therapy

Radiation Rendezvous

Well I entered the next “phase” of my treatment, radiation.  For me this involves a nightly rendezvous I could sum up as “ladies night out at the spa.”  I get to go a total of 33 times consecutively with my membership, Monday to Friday.  Right now they only let me enter the club at 7:45pm but I am hoping an earlier time slot opens up.  I get preferential treatment with a parking spot twenty feet from the radiation unit’s door with my own parking pass.  I disrobe and put on my spa gown depositing my clothes in a locker and then get ushered to the desk, checking into this elite club by confirming that “yes,”  it is my mugshot on your computer screen and announcing my birthdate once again.  If I had ever forgotten my birthday by this point in life, it has been drilled into my brain over the course of treatment where I have confirmed it what seems like thousands of times over the past 5 months!

Next, my two personally assigned radiation therapists bring me into the spa room for my workout.  They prepare my bed just for me, to my specifications.  The only problem is that I was never consulted.  The “bed” they use was designed for giants.  I am 5′ 7″ and they have to give me a step stool in order to climb up on this bed.  I’ll never understand how a bed that moves in all kinds of directions can’t be made to be lowered to a comfortable height to get on to!  You literally have to climb up onto the bed, take your arms out of the gown, and kneel on all fours.  Picture this!  The bed is split and there is a space that you have to reach across and get your hands to the head part and lay face down in sort of a superman (or superwoman) pose. There are even hand grips to hold onto above your head.  The first time I saw these I wondered if the bed was going to rotate and if you could use these to hang on to so you wouldn’t fall off.  Next I have to bend my left leg and cross my foot over my right leg.  I have to try to rest and put my weight on my right hip.  It’s like playing the hokey pokey while laying down.  This is just what I have to do.  They actually have a photo of me in “my” position on their computer so they know what I am supposed to look like on the bed, taking out any guesswork.

This is my spa bed. Take particular notice of the contour of the surface where your chest goes.

Now the therapists do their part.  They push down on different parts of your body and tug and pull the sheet underneath you.  They tell you not to help them and they readjust your body, stretch your arms, re-position my breast to fit on my pattern they drew on my mold, tell me to scoot down a little farther, relax my shoulder, etc.  I guess this is getting a workout without having to do the work yourself?  If you are comfortable then you are not in the right position!  One definite is that your rib cage has to hurt as it presses against the table where the opening starts. They call out numbers.  My magic number is 92.4.  Maybe it’s a favorite lottery number? They work in a semi-dark room…I think this is for the spa effect.  There is music playing.  It’s a laser show as well as they line up lasers with the tattoo marks they have placed on my back.  But wait.  At my age there are also moles and beauty marks.  Did they line them up with the right markings on my back?  I often wish they had tattooed numbers by them as well to make sure they line up with the right marks!

Then the therapists leave the room.  They told me the first time that once they leave they can see and hear everything from outside.  I felt like a little kid being left in a classroom as the teacher steps out.  What was I really going to be able to do in that position high up on a table with a dressing gown slightly covering me?  Who would want to go through all that re-positioning a second time in one evening anyway?

This is the “spa” version you think you are getting. (Image courtesy of Varian Medical Systems, Inc)

The table moves forward and up and the radiation turns on for a minute or so blasting only the breast I had the lumpectomy on from one side.  This breast is hanging below in the cutaway part of the bed.  The rest of me is on the bed and protected from radiation.  Then the machine completely rotates around and does the same thing from the other side.    It does not take long at all and you don’t feel anything which is great.  I wait for the stool to be put back in place and climb down to go get changed.  It would be nice at some point if I got a massage while I was still up there or cucumbers on my eyes or a manicure or something but for now I will have to settle for zapping any remaining cancer cells.

As for side effects, my pee is not glowing and I haven’t picked up any martian signals yet.  I’ve been told it could make me a little fatigued but I haven’t felt any different.  I have to use a lotion daily after my treatment to prevent skin irritation.  It reminds me of Crisco in appearance and consistency.  I haven’t tried cooking with it yet but may if I have some leftover once I’m done.

Did I mention that there were “rules” while I am going through radiation?  I was told that I could not shave my underarm on the side that is being radiated.  Well, I still don’t really have any hair growing there since chemo so that isn’t a problem.  You won’t have to worry about me having a hairy underarm!  I can only use a certain natural deodorant or cornstarch.  I can use Dove or a mild soap to shower and then pat the skin dry.  No under-wire bras allowed.  I cannot take more than 100% of the daily recommended dosages of A, C, E, CoQ10, and selenium (antioxidants).  Limit green tea to one cup per day. Okay, so cut out everything supplement wise that IS good for you if you are having x-rays.  Avoid direct sunlight on my breast.  Well, aside from the fact that summer is over I don’t sunbathe topless anyway.  I also have to apply Crisco, I mean that lotion to my breast after each treatment.  I guess if I break the rules they will cancel my membership and take away my parking pass.

I realize that rules are put in place with our best interest in mind  and for a reason.  All the re-positioning and lining up with lasers and marks and numbers are to make sure you are at the right distance from the machine and in the correct position to receive the correct dosage of radiation in the exact place that you need it.  Each patient is different and needs to be in a different position to get radiation exactly where they need it.

It’s amazing when you think of the accuracy and precision involved in trying to get the radiation to get just the area that had the cancer cells and try to spare as many good cells as possible in the rest of your body.  Hebrews 4:12 says, “ For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” (NLT)  God’s Word is even more precise than a laser beam of radiation with all it’s technology involved.  It can cut between the soul and spirit of man, between the joint and the marrow.  It’s so accurate that it’s truth can expose our innermost thoughts and desires!  And it never makes any errors!  God was light years ahead of radiation!  Amazing!  Isaiah 55:11 says, “so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (NIV)  God’s Word accomplishes what it is sent out to do.  I can only pray that the radiation sent forth to my body does the same!