I used to be a morning person. Then I started working at home on flex time and became a night owl. Now, at least for the next six weeks, I'll be a morning person again for radiation (an important part of my complete breakfast!).
I get radiation across the road from the cancer center where I had gotten chemo. I already knew the facility because my breast cancer support group meets there. This time I bypassed the main lobby and went directly to the treatment lobby, through a patients-only door in the back.
I now have a cubby hole with my name on it, where my blue-and-white striped robe lives. The robe is washed once a week, which makes sense given the short amount of time I wear it per day. The facility's robes are generous and comfortable -- spa robes, really.
The treatment waiting room is called "the garden," with potted plants and a stone pool filled with koi. It's a beautiful place to spend some time, though so far I've been taken directly back to what's called the radiation vault.
I had come with news of the latest innovation, reported at Ohio State University: a modified treatment board that minimizes radiation damage to the heart and lungs, especially for women like me whose tumor was on the left.
One of the radiation therapists explained to me that my treatment involves 11 different fields, geared toward focusing the best amount of radiation on the tumor site while sparing healthy tissue, what's known as intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). It should be comparable to the modified board.
I was again marked up, this time with a lighter-blue Sharpie, in a pattern "unique to you," as I was told. I need to do my best not to let that wash off. I found that my main challenge is not from showering, but from my workouts. Wiping off my sweat all but obliterated the simple circle around my front tattoo, which had to be redrawn. I'll need to use my towel sparingly.
I decided the outline I saw in the mirror (there are more markings beneath my breasts) is of my own, personal radiation monster. She's helping me in my fight and is pretty fierce.
(The therapists got a kick out of her, along with my riff on "Young Frankenstein".)
At my second treatment I asked the therapists what would happen if I suddenly had to sneeze. That shouldn't be a problem, but they would have to pause the treatment if anything required me to move my arm, "Like if you had to scratch an itch." Of course, after that statement was made and the treatment began my nose felt itchy, but it passed. The therapists monitor me closely from outside the treatment room, ready to intervene if needed, and can hear me if I need to make a request. My right carpal tunnel flared up a bit, but I was able to wait until after treatment to shake my wrist out.
My question about sneezes was a cover-up. Oldies-station music is piped into the radiation vault and is quite pleasant. I lie back in my personalized body-mold with my eyes closed and just relax. But every now and then, one of those songs brings tears to my eyes, and one of them hit on my first day of treatment. I heard the start of Bread's "The Guitar Man" and thought, Oh, crap. I've cried at the end of that song ever since I had first heard it in 1972. Would its effect on my breathing be a problem?
Fortunately, the answer was no, on two counts. First, the song played while I was being X-Rayed (another part of prep), not irradiated. Second, the sound of machinery around me proved a good distraction and let me remain relatively calm.
More measurements were taken of me before my first treatment and the final numbers were approved by my radiation oncologist. The second and third treatment days have gone much more quickly.
Due to computer problems, I couldn't post my final "0" chemo countdown doodle until now. Thanks to a SATA/IDE hard drive adapter, I was able to rescue the contents of my old hard drive.