Lie still. We must make a mold for you, so that you assume the exact same position every time, so the radiation hits only the correct tissue. Precision is key.
OK, I will lie perfectly still.
That’s not all. Tattoos. We must permanently mark your skin in three places, to triangulate a perfect adjustment, so the radiation hits exactly the right spot.
OK, I will wear my tattoos like badges of honor.
That’s not all. You must not move, even a little bit, during your radiation therapy sessions. Don’t risk damaging your lung. Or heart.
OK, I will not move. Not one bit. If you tell me not to breathe, I’ll stop breathing. I want nothing more than to be rid of this wretched cancer, to be healthy again.
That’s not all. Your breast will be exposed for the duration. You must not worry about that. She smiles, slightly.
You’re kidding, right? I smile back. Don’t worry, I have no shame. Cancer robbed me of what little I had left after childbirth. Besides, at this point, everyone’s seen my boobs.
Good. You will show up every day, Monday through Friday, for the six weeks of your treatment.
OK, I will.
Compared to the chemotherapy that almost killed me, radiation should be a piece of cake. A few friends tell me radiation made them incredibly tired. They didn’t have chemo. I think radiation is only draining if you don’t have chemo as a comparison. I ask several more friends who have weathered both therapies and confirm that I’m right.
Child’s play, boob radiation, for a chemo veteran like me.
I go to the radiation therapy waiting room on my first day. I am five minutes early.
Have a seat. We’ll call you at your appointed time.
I know it’s not true, but I feel like I’m in the wrong place.
There are too many kids here. Some read books, some play with toys. One boy sits on his mother’s lap, sucking his thumb. So many beautiful kids.
Not one of the kids has hair. I realize they are here, like me, for treatment. Kids. Silent tears fall from my eyes. These kids have cancer. I hate having cancer but give a million thanks that it’s me and not my toddler son. These kids are gorgeous. Innocent. Cancer patients.
Stacie, come on in.
Unlike the rest of oncology, radiation runs like clockwork. I am called into the room five minutes after I arrive, exactly at the time of my appointment. I follow the nurse, leaving the kids behind in the waiting room. I undress from the waist up, position myself in the mold and receive my treatment. The entire process takes ten minutes. I leave the hospital.
But the kids stay with me.
I haven’t felt this good physically since right before my first chemo infusion four months ago. But mentally, I’m exhausted. Six weeks of radiation is going to be so much more difficult than I could have imagined.
Nobody prepared me for the heartbreaking part of this therapy.
No one mentioned the kids.
Other posts about my cancer experience: