Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Hal? Yes, Michaela?

                I can’t help but feel that I am in a science fiction movie.  Radiation treatment is the most futuristic experience I have ever had (Sorry, Universal Studios).  Every day, I enter a huge doorway with a door at least a foot thick that reads, “Caution, High Radiation Area” on the front.  I walk through a brief hallway and there it is, the Linear Accelerator[1], or as I like to call it, Hal.  The room is dimly lit and red lasers shoot out from the four walls and the ceiling.  The entire room is one large grid.  In what little space isn’t taken up by Hal, there is a thin dark gray platform.  I lay down on the platform and raise my arm above my head while Hal’s attendant (the radiation technician) lines me up with the lasers.  Then she leaves the room, leaving me alone with Hal.  Hal’s gentle, machine hum changes into a series of whirs and clicks as he glides into position over my body. All the noise stops for a second and then is replaced with a high whine as Hal sends high levels of radiation through my body.  I receive three doses of radiation in three different sections of my right chest.  In-between each dose the technician comes in to check Hal.  The whole thing takes 15 minutes or less and then I go on my way. 
                Radiation treatment is probably the least scary thing about my cancer treatment so far.  It helps that I find the whole process fascinating in a, I’ve-read/watched-way-too-much-science-fiction sort of way.  Also, the side effects are nothing compared to chemotherapy.  I’m covered with permanent marker that the technician uses to line me up with the lasers, but other than freaking a few people out, that doesn’t hurt.  I have burn marks on my collar bone and what looks like a pretty bad sunburn/tan on the entire right side of my chest.  I constantly try to save my skin by applying liberal amounts of cocoa butter[2] and this icky Vaseline stuff[3] the doctor suggested.  Alas, I wander around looking like a greasy, short woman with oddly pointy hair (Yay for hair!).  It does not help matters that I tend to dress like a slob because the greasy lotion stains my clothes. This only makes me look like I have excessive amounts of boob sweat and shiny skin.  So if you see me out and about try not to stare or judge too fast.
                Greasy clothes, crazy hair, and odd tan lines aside, radiation is a piece of cake.  It does make me a little tired and gives me migraines, but these effects are easily taken care of with naps and over-the-counter headache medicine.  Today, everything got a lot easier.  I got my first boost!  This consists of concentrated radiation to the area of my mastectomy scar.  It takes less time than treating multiple sections of my chest and means that I am almost finished with radiation treatment!  It's kind of fun.  They put a cool extender on Hal filled with a composite of metals that block the treatment from touching anywhere else.  Really, I have never been more excited to be microwaved in my entire life.  Besides, who does not like a good boost every now and again?
                All bad science fiction films end.  This one is nearing its end.  I, the main character, have contracted a strange illness, a solution has been found, and now I am almost done receiving my futuristic treatment.  I have even been equipped with new parts (seriously, I feel like the bionic woman).  However, just like all bad science fiction films, there needs to be a sequel.  Although I do not intend for my cancer to come back, I hope to fill the sequel with old as well as new characters, and unlike most science fiction sequels, an entirely new plot. 

[2] I find that Palmer’s Cocoa Butter works the best.  You can get it in big tubs at almost any store like Target, Walmart, Kmart, Walgreens, etc.
[3] Eucerine Cream – I didn’t find that this worked as well as the cocoa butter.  It’s also far nastier and greasy and feels gross on my skin.  However, some people find it works great.  So whatever works.  

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