Penny’s Blog

The radiation routine

Posted on: March 14, 2009

Radiation got off to a very bad start (and I still don’t feel like talking about that), but the treatments themselves have been almost pleasant. Most radiology patients come in daily or several times a week, and arrangements are streamlined such that appointments are generally short, predictable, and efficient. The clinic gives you a bar-code sticker for the back of your medical record card, so you can check yourself in each appointment by scanning the card. They issue you a parking permit for the special handicapped/radiology/clergy lot right next to the hospital. You have the same radiology technicians every time, and you get to see and become familiar with the same folks in the waiting room.

The exception is that some days (especially early in the week) the clinic is packed; other days it’s nearly deserted. And one day a week you check in with the doctor after your treatment.  On crowded days you might have to wait 40 minutes for your zapping and another 20-30 to see the doctor. Other days you’re in and out of the clinic in 15 minutes.

My radiology techs are Talisha and Traci.  One of them fetches me from the waiting room, and we walk back to T&T’s X-ray room. I put my glasses, earrings and jacket on a chair, then lie down on the table. It’s a narrow, sheet-covered table, with a blue foam rubber knee rest and a blue head cradle. They hand me my custom-molded mask, let me get my mouth around the mouth piece, then they bolt the mask down onto the table to hold my head still.  Some lines of red light get projected onto me; if necessary T&T tug the bedsheet left or right an inch or two, to align the red lines with the dot tattooed on my chest.

It’s hard for me to see exactly what they do next, what with the head-immobilizing mask, but I know that they zap me three times, each from a different angle, and one of them comes in before each zap to adjust the equipment.  The lights are on, there’s a pretty picture on the ceiling (I can see parts of it through the mask), and music is playing. I can tell when the zapping is happening because there’s a buzzing sound for 20-40 seconds. After the third zap they come in and unbolt the mask. I gather up my stuff and leave—no checking out at the desk.

Check out this NYT writer’s radiation story (thanks for the link, Robin!):

How I’m doing in general these days is… okay.  Energy level is improving. Some other chemo side effects, though, linger.  My digestion is still weird… my hairless nose still drips… I’m still having hot flashes… and, oddly enough, I think my toenails may be getting ready to fall off.   Hey, got my chemo port removed on Tuesday!  (I asked if I could have the port as a souvenir, but it’s considered a biohazard—I guess because it has some of my blood in it—so they were required to dispose of it.)

During much of chemo I was too drained to feel much more than apathy, pitifulness, and stiff-upper-lippedness . Now I have the wherewithal to muster up the occasional outburst of hilarity… and also some anger. I’ve survived this particular cancer occurrence, so “Please let me get through this” has been replaced by “Dammit, why did I have to go through this dreck and waste six months of my life?”  (But that’s healthy and normal, right?)


1 Response to "The radiation routine"

Face mask bolted to a table while they zap you. This is worse than Goldfinger, The Pit and the Pendulum, and 1984 combined.

At least you’re past the halfway mark with the radiation. One foot in from the other, you know the drill. Hang tough, sister.

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  • dswope: I just happened by after my I received an email from a close colegue that he was headig for IVPalooza. All I knew was that it was a form of chemo.
  • Brian: Hi Penny; When I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma I found your site. Reading about what you went through was incredibly helpful to me. Tha
  • Tricia: Still here; still caring; still rooting you on!


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