Monday December 21st began my radiation therapy. I go in daily to work, then at 11:35 a.m.leave for the cancer center, which is located across the street and down 2 driveways. I sit in the waiting room for usually no more than 5 minutes before they call me back for treatment. On Monday’s they weigh me (can you say motivation?) before I slip inside a tiny closet to change out of my top into a lovely hospital gown. I then wait (sometimes not at all) in another small waiting area just outside those tiny closets until they call my name.
The room where the treatment is given is a large room with one of those uncomfortable “beds” in the center of the room. At the head of the bed is a huge machine that delivers the treatments to my body. Once I lie down on the bed and grab the bars behind and at the top of my head, and they place a bolster behind my knees, they begin the process of lining my tattooed dots up with the intersection beams in the room. I keep wanting to scoot myself to help them, but they tell me to lie still and let them do the work. They lower the lights in the room so that they can see the laser beams better against my skin. They then take the sheet I am lying on and slide it to just where they need me to be, then one of the two begin calling out numbers to the other as they line me up perfectly with the beams of the machine as it begins to hover over me. Once they are satisfied that it is “perfect” they turn the lights up and leave the room.
The machine is positioned at two different angles and each angle administers two different doses. The first dose typically lasts about 15 seconds and is accompanied by a high pitch buzzing sound. The second dose lasts about 5 seconds with a lower buzzing sound. I count every time I hear the buzzing begin and each time it is slightly different. Sometimes the first dose is 14 seconds, and at times it has lasted as long as 17 seconds. The machine then angles to the other side of me and repeats the same sequence of doses. The only time the therapists come back into the room is after the machine has switched sides. They insert some type of plate over the dosing screen before the long dose is administered. I asked my therapist about the timing and she said the machine is loaded with my dose. The seconds, or half-seconds’ differences from day to day depends on the humidity in the room, my body temperature and the moisture in my body and even the weather outside. The machine knows the exact dose to administer regardless of the conditions surrounding it, and adjusts itself accordingly.
The entire process in the treatment room typically takes no more than 10 minutes, which is a good thing as my arms are usually falling asleep by then from being over my head. The therapist come back in and lowers the bed while the machine goes back to home plate. They then bid me good day, “see you tomorrow” and I go back to my tiny closet to dress for the outside world.
Every Wednesday I have appointments to meet with the radiation nurse and the radiology oncologist to discuss any side affects and have any questions I may have answered. Last week was my first appointment and already the doctor noticed swelling and some “pink”. He advised taking some Advil to relieve the tenderness but assured me all is well. I notice heat radiating into my coat as I am driving to finish up my work day at home. There is slight irritation and tenderness already, so as soon as I get home and log onto my work computer, I make myself comfortable and apply moisturizing lotion to the affected area. The heat I feel is a real indication to the burning that is happening to both the good and bad cells in my body. I know that radiation is for the best, but it is a little freaky knowing that good cells are getting burned up in this process too.
To date, I haven’t started glowing, so I’m not a dead give-a-way while playing hide and seek just yet. My eyelashes and eyebrows have begun to grow back in as well as the hair on my head. However it will be quite a while before scarves and wigs are put aside to make way for a new short hairstyle. Radiation will have no affect on the growth of my hair, so by late spring/early summer I should be able to don my new “do” to the world outside of home.
I understand that things will get a little tougher before they get better, but Dave, Jenn and I are looking forward to a healthier and happy year in 2010. I pray each of you have a better year too. Happy New Year!