Let the zapping begin

Yesterday was my second visit to the radiation therapy center. I dutifully checked in with my little ID bracelet, got changed, and was in the crowded back waiting room for only a couple of minutes when the technician came to get me. She introduced herself (I’m going to call her A1) and the other three technicians (T and A2) who I’m going to get to know over the next month-and-a-half. She led me back to my treatment room. They are organized by team, so it’ll always be the same people and the same room every time I come. Each team has a name; let’s call my team the A-Team (why not).

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The Machine (called a linear accelerator). My head goes up toward it, and you can see the bars that I have to hang on to with my hands over my head. The entire machine rotates from side to side.

Yesterday’s visit was not an actual treatment; they were doing more mapping, this time with x-rays. It was hard to tell what they were doing with all their fancy machinery. I suspect that people go into the radiation oncology field because they like to be able to play with complicated medical toys. I had to lay in the same position for about 20 minutes while they drew on me with Sharpies and projected red and green laser beams across me. A1 drew the outline of a shadow cast by the machine; this would be the area covered by the radiation.

Also at yesterday’s visit, I received my schedule. I was right; my last day is February 7. I’ve asked for mornings, so the exact time shifts around a bit and then settles down to 9:15 or 9:30am. Late enough to avoid the worst of traffic, but early enough to not interfere too much with the rest of the day. At least that’s my theory.

For today’s visit, the first actual radiation therapy treatment, I got there a little early and was in the back waiting room about ten minutes before my appointment – and they called me back immediately. I like this place, very punctual. Once in the room, I take off the outer robe and untie the gown (open in the back), and lay face-up on the bed. I pull the gown off my arms and below the treatment area. Today, T had to re-draw some marks to take some photos, but that won’t happen again. Every other day (starting from today) they will drape me with a plastic-like material that apparently causes the treatment to be more intense, which is why they don’t do it every day.

My hands are placed over my head, holding on to a bar, and I turn my head to the left. The A-Team uses the sheet under me to gently pull me into the exact position, lining up the projected lasers with my new tattoos. Then they leave the room (I watch the door close – it’s two-feet thick!), and the machine moves around me, making various whirring and beeping noises. T came back in, removed the plastic material, and stepped out again. A few minutes later it was done. The whole thing took maybe ten minutes; I was actually getting dressed at 8:30 when the appointment was actually supposed to start!

It did not hurt; in fact I did not feel anything. Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays, so it makes sense that I could not feel it. I’ve been asking the different technicians I meet what their post-treatment skin care recommendations are. So far I’ve been told to use aloe vera gel immediately after treatment, then twice more during the day/evening. Initially this should be enough, but as treatment progresses, they recommend also using calendula cream. Today I applied the aloe vera, even though I could not feel or see any skin reaction; I’ve read that “staying ahead of it” helps. We’ll see.

2 thoughts on “Let the zapping begin

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