Radia Shun

In preparation for my radiation therapy, l tried to learn everything I could in advance, from the cancer Facebook groups that I belong to. There are thousands of women in one particular group, most of whom have already gone through, or are currently going through radiation. One conversation in particular, caught my eye.

A group of several women were discussing their radiation treatment experiences and how they felt shunned and alone during them. This worried me. To hear them discuss the therapy and how they felt abandoned and alone, was heart-wrenching. You see, nobody can be with you in the room during treatment. Being shunned or abandoned are cruel experiences I’ve endured in the past, and not what I really wanted to add to my cancer experience repertoire.

I realize the medical staff needs to leave the room out of necessity, because they would otherwise be exposed to radiation all day long. I understand this, and I really wouldn’t want someone standing at my side holding my hand anyway. But being shut in a room alone, with a machine zapping me, wasn’t looking very appealing to me.

I started my radiation treatments on my birthday. This made me depressed, but I dealt with it by focusing on the fact that it was my life, that these treatments were going to be prolonging. If the odds are with me, I should see many more birthdays. So, happy birthday to me.

The day before, I had gone through a “dry run” where they put me in the machine and measured me up. Lighted crosshairs were projected from the ceiling. They aligned the X and Y of the machine, to the tattoos I had gotten a few weeks earlier. I will go through this alignment daily.

The machine has a hard, flat table to lie upon, and above it is a fixture that looks like a giant faucet, only instead where water would come out, is a glass plate that is part of the radiation mechanism. Below the table is some sort of 2’ x 2’ paddle-looking-thingy. I’m guessing that it’s some sort of radiation stop or backdrop. The paddle and the faucet are mounted on a rotating mechanism. In my mind, I hear Pink Floyd’s Welcome to the Machine.

I arrived on that first day and began what will become my daily routine for the next several weeks.

I change clothing, wait for the nurse. Follow her to the radiation room. Repeat my name and date of birth. Lie on the table, lift my hands over my head and place them in some arm cradles. I have to lie there exposed and although it’s somewhat humiliating, I can’t help but think how even more vulnerable it must be for men that need prostrate radiation. There are cameras positioned on me and they have to take a photo of me daily in this position during treatment, I imagine they’d need it for review, if something goes awry. My mind wonders how well they protect those images from getting hacked. Seriously. This procedure puts people in vulnerable positions, male or female.

The table is very uncomfortable, and the positioning hurts my back. The nurses are somewhat curt with me, and tell me to just live with it, that it will be short in duration. I can see red, glowing alignment marks and numbers on my skin, by looking at the reflection in the “faucet’s” glass plate. I must hold very still, as any excessive movement could possibly zap areas that I’ve heard can damage internal organs and bones. Because my cancer was on the left side, they need to be cautious around the heart, ribs and lung because damage to them can be a side effect.

After I’m set up, the nurses and therapists leave the room. I’m alone. I feel like a freak show as the faucet head goes from side to side and then rotates underneath and the paddle side raises up above me at an angle. It hums and whirs quite loudly.  When the faucet is below me, it projects a large shadow of my boob on the ceiling, I coarsely wonder if that happens to the men in treatment, or if they are afforded more dignity. It’s all so surreal and awkward. My mind, with nothing better to do during the procedure, scrolls through a variety of crazy imagery. I picture frying eggs, a smoking gun, or zombie flesh falling off. I picture sharks with friggin’ laser beams.

Sharks with Laserbeams

The radio plays softly, barely audible over the loud buzzing noise of the machine. Ironically, I hear Bruno Mars singing:

Oh, her eyes, her eyes make the stars look like they’re not shinin’
Her hair, her hair falls perfectly without her trying
She’s so beautiful and I tell her everyday
Yeah, I know, I know when I compliment her she won’t believe me
And it’s so, it’s so sad to think that she don’t see what I see
But every time she asks me “Do I look okay?”
I say

When I see your face
There’s not a thing that I would change ’cause you’re amazing
Just the way you are
And when you smile
The whole world stops and stares for a while
‘Cause girl you’re amazing
Just the way you are
Yeah

I feel anything but amazing. And after a time, the treatment is over. They lower the table and allow me to sit up. I stretch. For now, I feel no pain and I feel no different. I put on my gown and return to the changing room. I apply an anti-radiation cream to the treated site, which they provide me in bulk. I will have to put it on several times a day. And so, this will be my routine. The effects of radiation toxicity, as they call it, won’t set in until around the end of week two. Burns and exhaustion are the main ones. For now, it’s somewhat tolerable, just slightly unnerving and allows the to mind wander…

The treatment is lonely, as the women on the forums lamented, but it goes quick. I don’t care for the therapists in there, so far. They are cold and seem annoyed with me. I am treated like an object on a CNC machine. Put the part in, take it out, put a new part in.

I’m not sure how I’ll be feeling by once the toxic effects set in, but I’m sure you’ll all get to hear about it. For now, I’ll just think about the promise of future, better birthdays and how much God has blessed me so far.

Oh, her eyes, her eyes make the stars look like they’re not shinin’
Her hair, her hair falls perfectly without her trying
She’s so beautiful and I tell her everyday

11 thoughts on “Radia Shun

  1. Love you Anne! This sounds like a horrific experience 😦 Praying for a full recovery. Thinking about you constantly! You have a great gift writing! I enjoy reading your blog

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  2. Love u Ann. Your blog is very informational. Thinking of u always. My sister Linda just had cancer removed from her butt. Your a strong woman, keep going

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  3. Hi Anne, thanks for the update. Sorry that you feel like an island, but know that you are not alone. Jesus our healer, our savior is always with us no matter what. But I truly know what you are feeling, some of my early tested had me come away with those same feelings. It truly forced me to shift my dependants on Jesus and not on me or even the Doctors and nurses. Sometimes I feel that the Lord puts us in situations to help us align our Gyroscopes, in my case I had to come to grips that in some areas of my life had been left unattended, for me that was honestly many spiritual moments and much quiet time before the throne. My Guitar became my therapy that showed me God had more for me to do in this life. Even though I really don’t know you very well, I sense the Holy Spirit works in and around you. Own that and receive that….Your candor and honesty are quite refreshing…Stay strong!!!

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    1. I pray that I can pass on the encouragement as you have, Gary. I really needed to hear, and own, those words. Cancer has certainly given me the kick in the pants I needed, to get my spiritual life in order. Only a few more weeks and and this will be over! 🙂

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  4. Anne God Bless and all you are going thru. I guess no one knows until it happens to them . Thought about you often and prayed! Knowing that Our Heavenly Father is right by your side.You are Beautiful in His sight and loves you more than any of us can imagine!😍 The faucet you talked about is His love flowing over you to refresh you in the days ahead! Here’s a little prayer for heaven to smile on you, angels to watch over you, and joy to fill your heart because that’s how much we care!!🤗 love to you Joe n family..see you at church!😚

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  5. Hi Anne,
    I have been thinking of and praying for you since I read about your cancer in the church prayer requests. Know for certain you are never alone. I can personally attest to God’s presence in our lives even at dark times. Monte and I pray for you and your family for strength to go through this trying time. May the Lord’s healing power be with you.

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    1. Thank you Colleen, cancer brings so many emotions with it but without a doubt it has brought me closer to God, so he takes the bad and makes it into something good. Thank you for your prayers! ❤

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