April 9, 2010

radiation...week one.

it's hard to believe that i am just over a month out of chemo. that's crazy! it seems like it would never end, but this last month has flown by! i've been meaning to update, but with radiation at eight thirty every morning and then a full time work schedule, getting things in order for grad school, doctor's appointments and a social life...well, it just hasn't happened. so, i'll do my best to keep up with weekly updates through radiation...then hopefully back to more insightful posts about cancer survivorship. first, let me bring you up to speed...

two weeks ago, i had what they call my radiation 'mapping' appointment. they have a simulation room, that looks similar to the treatment rooms, but instead of a radiation machine, there's a CT scanner. two very nice radiation therapists brought me in and placed me on the table, lined me up with some red lasers coming from the ceiling, and then made notes about what position i was in (they refer to all these things in numbers and stations...i really had no idea what they were talking about). then, they told me that i'd be having my CT scan...and i went through the scanner just like i have with every other CT scan. then they came out and told me to wait a little while so the doctor could 'do his thing', and it was about another ten minutes until they came back. they got all official again, discussing where i was on the table...then, they told me it was time to get my tattoos. some people think i'm joking when i explain this. yes, they are tattoos...permanent ink marks in my skin. i have three tiny black dots down the center of my chest that they use to line me up in the same exact position every day for all seventeen treatments.

on monday i started radiation...it was a lot of anticipation for what really turned out to be a non-event. i expected some terrible, painful, scary experience...and, when they came back into the room to tell me it was over, i thought something had gone wrong or they needed to re-position me.... i didn't feel a thing, i couldn't actually tell when i was getting radiated, and it took less than three minutes for the whole treatment. so, it really wasn't too terrible...and, the radiation therapists (the nurses of radiation) who do my treatments are so wonderful.

my treatments go something like this.... check in at the front desk, which lets the radiation therapists and computers know i'm there. this, in turn, prompts the computer to pull up my program so that the machine can be set for my treatment. then, i go to the 'gowned waiting area', which is just as glamorous as it sounds. i change from the waist up into a hospital johnny and robe. this is where it gets awkward, because i get treatment at the same time as four old men...and we all sit in the waiting room together...half naked. it usually doesn't take long before the radiation therapists come to get me, and bring me back into the treatment room. the room is large, with the radiation machine right in the middle. each person has a different set up...mine is a cushion for my head, and then a cushion under my knees, which is already set up on the table when i go in (i know it's different because they change it right after me, and the next person has different 'props'). i lay down on my back, they give me a ring to hold so that my hands are on my stomach, and then they use a band to hold my feet together. they move the table around, move me, turn the lights on and off to make sure my tattoos are lined up with the lasers projecting from the walls, and then one of them says 'ninety-four' while another one confirms the position. i asked what this was about on my third day, and was told it's the distance from the source to my skin...which is how the dosemitrists have calculated the correct dose...ninety four centimeters in my case. then, they turn the lights back on, turn the radio up and leave the room. i get treated from either the front or back first, and then the machine moves around to the other side and treats me again. i can only hear a small click, a beep, and a little whirring noise when i'm being treated...which is about twenty seconds on each side. then, they come back and that's it!

as for side effects...i can expect to be extremely fatigued as we go on, i'll have a sore throat, a little sun burn, and be a little sore. but, nothing yet...i feel like i got punched in the chest, but it's only sore to the touch. and, i'm exhausted, but i think that's because i have treatment early every day, and then go to work full time. i don't feel anything during the treatment itself...it's just like having an x-ray.

hopefully this helps give you an idea of what radiation is like. so far, so good.... the silver lining to this, as usual, is the people. they're wonderful. our thing is now 'question of the day'...this started with me asking real questions about radiation, but now is just a fun little routine. today was trivia friday. who knows what monday will bring, but i've got them to look forward to. seriously, thank goodness for these people...without them, cancer would really suck.

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