The time for starting a new cycle in the journey came today.
Even though I had my dry run day yesterday – and knew technically what to expect – I still had the emotional part of actually getting radiation to overcome today.
And it was different. While you’re lying there with all of these equipment parts moving about your body and red and white hot lights shining down on you, it is clear to you that the technicians working everything pretty much run for the hills when it’s time to administer the dose of radiation. Hint: this is serious stuff.
Luckily, I have my best friend and husband and most loyal supporter by my side.
It was not lost on me that the door to the room where radiation is administered is also about 2 feet thick. Wouldn’t want any of the juice to get loose.
So back to the experience itself.
As with my other experiences, the people have been fabulous. These are some of the most amazing people that I’ve met. They are so compassionate and so concerned about how I feel and how I’m feeling throughout whatever is going on.
The technicians made this experience much fun as it could possibly be. They have fun music playing and are very upbeat and keep everything light so that I’m having “fun” too.
The seriousness of what is going on is never lost but their focus on keeping my spirits high is definitely apparent.
During the set up and treatment, it’s almost as if I’m in a science fiction movie. Arms with imaging areas that reach over my body move back and forth to the coordinates as if the technicians were positioning a satellite. They’ve already positioned me in my cradle and lined up my tattoos and markings. And after setting the coordinates, take some test pictures. Today, they did a little additional adjustment until I was perfectly placed.
The actual treatment didn’t take long. I think there were 6 separate positions from which doses were administered.
There are lots of details:
- Every other treatment day a pad will be used that effects how the dosage hits my skin. With the pad, the dosage stays closer to the skin, without it, the dosage goes deeper.
- Every treatment, a monitoring wire is used to measure the dosage that actually hits my body. Just keeping themselves as accurate as possible….
- There are monitors that also check my potential movement. If I move even the tiniest iota, a buzzer will sound so that they know I’ve been a bad girl and moved.
- There is also a monitor for breath holds. If I don’t inhale to the level needed to match coordinates, we are all alerted by red lights. They can let me know if I need to blow breath out or inhale a little more to reach our goal position. Apparently, I’m an expert at this. I’ve been told at both the Morehead and Pineville locations that I’m an excellent breather. Apparently this is something some folks have trouble with.
After everything is set up perfectly and the technicians flee the room, the movement of the alien machines begins. When they’re in place, I’m instructed to inhale and hold. I hear the whirring or humming of the equipment working and know that I’m quietly radiating. This is tremendous incentive to hold perfectly still and not breathe until instructed to do so.
After this mere 15 minutes or so of absolute stillness, my arms don’t really want to move from their above head positions and my legs are a little rubbery when my feet hit the ground.
And although I know that radiation was applied, I feel no difference after the first treatment. This is exactly what I was told to expect. (Here’s the before and after.)
It’s good to know that it’s true. Effects of the radiation on my skin (and the tightening of muscles) won’t be likely to show up for 2 to 3 weeks….which is about 1/2 way through my treatment regimen.
Regardless of looking no different, I do realize the importance of following my radiology oncologist’s and radiation nurse’s instructions to moisturize 3 times a day with my prescription goop. I also must wear my lymphedema sleeve during all of my waking hours 7 days a week. This greatly reduces the potential for developing lymphedema during radiation. There is actually a 30% chance of this happening during radiation. And we don’t want it to ever start. Much easier to keep it away than to try to get rid of it.
So today marked the first of 33 treatments. I’ll be counting them down just as I did with chemo. I finished chemo January 13 and coincidentally enough, my last radiation treatment is on May 13. The schedule is a little overwhelming. (note the picture of a portion of my treatment calendar.)
As I left LCI Pineville today, the girls called out, “See you tomorrow!”
That hit home. We will be seeing lots of each other.