It's a queen. ~ Ripley, Aliens 3 (1992)At least, that's what I thought when first confronted with the massive radiation machine on my first day of treatment. In my mind, I saw this:
|The Queen, ready to spawn thousands of aliens in Alien Resurrection (1997)|
In reality, I encounter this brightly lit machine each weekday of my five weeks of radiation treatment:
|The Radiation Machine aka The Queen|
I call her Frankenboob.
My right remains jealous.
I endured AC/T chemotherapy from March 3, 2016 through July 19, 2016, and am still recovering from the side effects. My chemo port was removed August 5, 2016, so that I'm no longer a member of the Borg. And the following week, I met the "Queen" above to begin my daily radiation treatments.
I have one each day, Monday through Friday. Do you see that table with what looks like molding along the top? Here, let me show you a closer picture:
Under the sheet is a "bean bag" that has been molded to my body. During my initial appointment - my simulation appointment - the technicians placed the large bag underneath me and, once they had me in the desired therapy position (arms above my head), they sucked all of the air out of the bag in order to create a "mold" for my body to be used at each treatment. It helps to ensure that I'm in the same position each time they aim that little beam. As do my four new tattoos.
What? Tattoos? That's right. I told the tech with the needle that she was giving me my gateway tattoos. I'm sure this will lead down a path of elaborate sci-fi references and jaunty looking owls covering my pale flesh.
Right. What? A breathing tube? Don't I just close my eyes and relax while any possible remaining cancer cells are zapped out of me?
Nope. See? I put my mouth around that large blue piece.
Go ahead, try to convince me that a man didn't design that thing.
In the end, I look kinda like this:
Actually, I look exactly like this since this was taken by one of my technicians. See?
Anyway, this is a fully interactive radiation. Because my tumors (the main and its mini-me) were located in my left breast, my radiology oncologist opted to have me use the breath-hold technique when receiving radiation treatments. At that first appointment, they had me use the breathing tube to inhale as much as possible and measured my lung capacity. Then they had me do it again. And again. After three large breaths, they used these measurements to find a range representing 75% of my lung capacity. During treatment, I inhale until I reach that 75% range then hold my breath as the actual treatment takes place. This creates extra space between the tissue being radiated and important parts like, oh, my heart.
But how can I know when I've reached that 75% range?
Well, as you can see above, along with the breath tube and tiny clamps closing off my nostrils, I also wear goggles during treatment. Goggles that show me the computer screen being used by my techs. And this is where it becomes like a video game. A ridiculously easy video game but, really, those are the only kind I enjoy. During treatment, when I look through those goggles, I see a screen like this:
|Radiation Mock PC Screen - Breath Hold|
I believe the longest I've held my breath doing this was during the simulation appointment at 34 or 35 seconds.
One treatment each day for 25 days.
As of today, I've finished 23 treatments. My last ... LAST ... radiation treatment will be this Thursday, September 15, 2016.
My skin held up really well until about treatment 21. Sunday night, I realized that a large blister had formed and broken in the treatment area just under my left arm. Fun times. As of last night, other parts of the treatment area have started to peel like I had a really stupid time on spring break in Florida. I cannot wait until Thursday.
My friends these days are called Aloe Vera (the clear kind) and Aquaphor. I apply them generously and often. Enemies include heat and ... well ... anything touching the area. Since last Thursday, the worst hoodlum is called "bra."
Thursday really cannot come soon enough. Someone else can meet the Radiation Queen and play this video game of zapping cells.
I'm ready for Ripley 2.0 to head on down to earth.