Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Me and the Machine

Let me start by saying that so far, radiation is going well. I’ve had 4 out of 18 treatments and I can’t really complain. The only side effect has been a bit of dry mouth and a funky taste.

There is something about radiation that has made this whole experience a bit more authentic. While receiving chemotherapy, pretty much everything was done at the oncology center. I got to keep my clothes on, play games, and watch TV. I could wear hats and wigs, and bring snacks. And even though I was in a bed and had an IV, it wasn’t a hospital.

Radiation is every day (except weekends) at an actual hospital. Nothing makes an experience more real than doing it every single day. When I show up each morning I have to put on a hospital gown. Granted, I get to keep my pants and shoes on, but having that gown on still makes it seem a bit more daunting. Once I change, I sit in a small waiting room with my gown and my bald head. I usually don’t go out in public bald, so I feel very vulnerable sitting in my gown and with my ostrich-like head exposed.

Once I’m called back to the radiation area, I walk through a door that is about six inches thick. When the technicians get me settled they leave the room and then it’s just me and the machine. The machine re-positions during my treatment and it has a fluidness to it that makes it seem almost like a creature rather than a mere machine.

Those three minutes that I am alone with the machine are peaceful, yet agonizing. It’s early in the morning and I’m still waking up. It’s quiet and I’m usually somewhat covered with a blanket. The sounds of the machine are rhythmic and almost soothing. But then my mind starts to fill with thoughts as the machine rotates around me. I start to think about the fact that I can’t move and that it is very uncomfortable. And I start to think about the radiation that is being administered. I can’t see or feel it, but its presence surrounds me and I almost feel smothered. But by the time the panic starts to set in, the experience ends. The technicians show up and they set me free.

I quickly change into my clothes and then I walk out to my reserved parking space. And I usually walk with a bit of spring in my step because the vulnerable feeling has passed. It is not even 8 AM and I’ve already kicked a little ass.

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