I've been getting irradiated five days a week for a little while. It is a vastly different experience from chemotherapy. When you walk into the chemo lab, you're greeted warmly and asked to sit in a reclining seat that is rather comfy. Someone asks if you need a pillow or blanket. The nurses chat with you while they set up your poison, and the other people in the lab ask you about your day, your children, your parents, etc. It's a pretty friendly environment.
Radiation is a different animal. I'm the last person there, because I scheduled my sessions at the end of the day so I wouldn't miss too much or the work day. The waiting room is usually deserted, with only the sound of the television and The Waltons to keep me company. I get my hospital gown from a cabinet without anyone telling me, and head for the dressing room. I take off my shirt and bra, slip on the robe, and then spend five minutes trying to figure out how to tie it. Once I do that, I shove my shirt and bra into my purse and walk out. Occasionally I sit in a chair to wait, and cringe at the television(seriously--TV back then was not anywhere near to politically correct!).
Usually, the radiation therapist is waiting for me. Once a week I get weighed(!), and I try not to get upset with the results. One day a week I see the doctor(the "radiological oncologist"), so I can
ask him questions, if I have any. I never have any, mostly because I
think of questions at night right before I sleep and completely forget
them the next day. Fridays is X-ray day, to change up the routine.
For the most part, however, every day is exactly the same. I follow them back into the room. A table is covered with a sheet, and there are red lines on this from lasers stationed strategically around the room. I'm not sure what those are for, but my hypothesis is that they are there to help center the patient on the table. One of these days I'll actually remember to ask. I nicknamed the machine above the table HAL; not a single radiation therapist understood the reference.
Once I'm laying on the table, there's a wedge that is settled underneath my knees so that I am "comfortable". Being a smart aleck, I always want to giggle when they ask me that, because heck no! I'm half naked on a table about to be shot up with radiation! Who would be comfortable under those circumstances? Especially when they pull down your gown and you're flashing half of a set of tatas. I'd be more comfortable back at chemo, I want to say. At least there you get to keep your clothes on.
I have three tattoos--they look like freckles--to help them locate exactly where to aim the radiation. However, that is just not enough. They also have to draw on me! I have an X under each arm, and the left side of my chest is covered by some sort of parallelogram-ish shape, and there's also a Z. I asked about a smiley face, but nobody thought that was funny. These marks are gone over every time, because it helps them aim better, and they used purple. I like the color purple, it is my favorite, but these markings tend to rub off onto my clothing. Nobody mentioned that.
After the marking comes the jostling, as the radiation techs pull the sheet under me first one way and then another, until I am exactly where they want me to be. Occasionally the table gets raised or lowered, or they ask me to turn my head. Then they tell me to be still so they can start the treatment. The machine I call HAL is ready to deliver the appropriate amount of radiation to kill any lingering cancer cells.
And...that is about the time when somewhere on my body, something starts to itch. I hear the door to the room close, a creaking sound that reminds me of someone passing gas, and Bam! My nose itches. Or my boob itches. Or my eyelid itches. I lay there, HAL slowly rotating around me, and I try not to think about scratching. I have no fingernails, I tell myself. How am I supposed to scratch anything? Just wait a couple more minutes and you will be done, I think. That just makes things worse, and my anxiety level just starts heading up the scale. Preventing someone from scratching an itch is surely an effective method of torture. I would claim responsibility for Jimmy Hoffa, Watergate, and DB Cooper if I could just get someone to scratch my nose.
In fact, I decided that being able to read minds or lift tall buildings are not useful superpowers after all. I want my superpower, after all this radiation, to be the ability to psychically scratch my nose when it itches, even if I can't move. The relief I experience when HAL is done and I can grab a pen and scratch? Priceless.
Also? Glowing in the dark wouldn't be too shabby, either.