Radiation, Pictorial Tour

Lockers to the right, changing rooms to the left

Scheduling radiation is a trip. I chose a block of time (noon-3:00) for my usual radiation set. Each day I am given a time within that window for the next day's session. Printed on that half sheet of paper is any other appointment attached to radiation, eg: oncologist visit. I present the paper to the radiation tech who signs off or passes me off to the next agenda item. At the conclusion of the set, I trade in that day's agenda for the next day's agenda. Hence, my dance card.
I embroidered my robe. It became a conversation starter. I don’t know why I got one, but it was nice.

About scheduling. I chose a block of time (noon-3:00) for my usual radiation set. Each day I was given a time within that window for the next day’s session. Printed on that half sheet of paper is any other appointment attached to radiation, eg: oncologist consultation. I present the paper to the radiation therapist who either signs off or escorts me to the next agenda item. At the conclusion of business, I exchange that day’s agenda for the next day’s appointment. Hence, my dance card.

Wait here.

There is coffee available, but usually there is not enough wait time to bother with it. Across the corridor from the fireplace is one of four treatment suites. The bit you can see in this photo is where the techs manage what happens during radiation. They schedule patients in 15-minute blocks, meaning way too many people being treated for cancer. Everything from brain stem to bone marrow transplants, and me. They even have a way to radiate blood for transfusions so that recipients do not acquire infections from donors.

My main tech people told me (because I asked) that the mechanism that triggers this release is overly sensitive, and when it triggers, the entire department shuts down for the remainder of the day. It happens enough that my providers have experienced it. Inergen is a chemical that sucks all the oxygen out of the space.

Star Trek treatment room

As soon as I turned the corner from the alarm sign, this is what I saw. Where I’m standing there is a chair and side table to disrobe. There are lasers in the walls and ceiling that line up with the cradle* and the tattoos* on my sternum and either side of the rib cage. The table adjusts height and rotates on horizontal plane. A tech would place a bolus,* then everyone but me left the room. The only sounds are mechanical; this machine breathes as it goes about its business. There are lead “leaves” inside that adjust to shape the treatment area.

Stand Mixer

The machine also rotates as if the digital screen you see were the axis point. for 25 of the 30 treatments, I received 4 zappings, 2 energies from my left side repeated on the right side. The machine also takes x-rays every 5 treatments or so to check for any changes in the anatomy (Did I sign up for that?). I’d read Radium Girls about a year ago, not such a pretty picture! This monster has attachments too. More on that in another post. There is no radioactive material in this machine. The radiation is generated on demand electronically. A dosimetrist* monitors the photons* and the bolus* and there is math involved in magical ways that I heard but can neither reproduce or comprehend.

For our purposes here, nothing in this daily process is inherently painful. As the burns (which are cumulative) got more intense, positioning my arms above my head became uncomfortable, as skin does when it is burned and scars harden.

Words noted with an asterisk (*) will appear in a subsequent post.

3 thoughts on “Radiation, Pictorial Tour

  1. Wow. Grateful for the tour and the chance to see the environment as it has a significant bearing on your whole experience. Thank you for sharing. That does indeed look my mom’s Kitchen Aid on steroids. LOVE the robe pocket!

  2. This is both terrifying(the machinery) and comforting(the decor is not too institutional). I’m so glad this is all over for you! Praying for a restful recovery and a return to normal living.

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