When I first heard the word radiation I had very little understanding
of what that meant. I immediately thought of bald heads and gaunt
faces. I began to ask questions, read, and look on the Internet.
Knowing what you are facing is power. I know now that
radiation is very different than chemotherapy. They both affect
cancer cells but chemo is a treatment given through an I.V. or
with pills while radiation is like an x-ray.
I found that people reacted to hearing that I was having radiation
in the same way that I had. Confusion about the treatment. Always
the question of whether I would lose my hair would come up. They
would ask with a look of concern. My hair seemed so unimportant
at this point.
Create positive acronyms (from the book, You Can't Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought)
Our cat was getting thinner and we thought it could be a growth on his thyroid like he had before. Sure enough it was. The vet said we had 3 choices, give pills for the rest of his life, radiation, or surgery. When I started laughing, the vet asked why. I explained that I was about to begin radiation myself. Without missing a beat he replied, "Why not take the cat with you? Or better yet, you come here!"
It's nice when people can sense that it's okay to make a joke. "Laughter's the best medicine!" So the cat had surgery and we both had our stitches at the same time.
Today I had an x-ray, CT scan, and MRI in preparation for Monday's radiation treatment. I had thought it was just going to be a visit with the oncologist, and an MRI. The oncologist was very nice and was more than willing to answer my questions. My husband and I watched a video about the radiation process and I was able to check out a copy for the 6th grade at my school. I also gathered lots of materials including two books by Richard Bloch. He had been told he had 3 months to live and became a cancer survivor. He and his brother had started H&R Block Inc. and he now devotes his life to helping people with cancer.
Craig is one the people that delivers the radiation treatments.
He is a young guy and very personable. I was surprised when he
told me they had to make a mask. Before I could react a warm
piece of plastic mesh was put on my face and it molded to my
face. I have to wear it for every treatment so my head doesn't
The oncologist told me the tumor is approx. 3 cm. Even though
that is very small it still seems big to me. He said the radiation
is supposed to shrink it or stop it from growing. He said it
would be a few months after the treatments before we would know
the success of the radiation. I asked him the success rate for
my type of tumor and this type of treatment. He said there was
over a 50% success rate with this type of tumor.
Permission to Feel
At first I read about visualization techniques and tried to
visualize the tumor gone. I became frustrated when I can't visualize.
Instead I work on being calm and positive. I continue to read
books on positive attitude and exceptional patients. This helps
me confirm what I already know.
Sometimes I get sad or scared but it doesn't last for long.
I give myself permission to feel and to express these emotions.
I try to laugh and joke. Humor is so healing. When people comment
on my weight loss I tell them I'm on the Jenny Craig Brain
I feel joy when I think of my son and his love for me. I remember
the day I had the biopsy. I had insisted he stay home and go
to school. The evening was to be the first home football game
and he would be playing. I told him I would be thinking of him.
Before we left home he handed me a note he had written. When
I woke up from the surgery, I pinned his football button to my
pillow and thought about how lucky I was. Later we talked and
he told me he had tied the school record for 3 interceptions
in a game. His season was undefeated, he made the all state team
and I enjoyed every game I was able to attend. This is the important
part of life.
Today I am feeling sad, melancholy, and quiet. I feel a need
for solitude and reflection. The feelings are hard to describe:
a sense of loss, grief, reality of what lies ahead with the radiation.
I don't feel the positive attitude or my usual energy. I tell
myself that it's okay. I take my dog for a walk on my favorite
trail and lay across a flat rock feeling the sun's warmth. I
drink green tea, burn cedar incense, disconnect the phone, and
retreat. I listen to Indian flute music by R Carlos Nakai and
write in my journal. I give myself permission to feel this way.
It's part of this journey.
The First Treatment
I was scared when it came time to begin. I imagined a light
beam like a sci-fi movie or a Star Wars light saber. I asked,
"Will it hurt?" "You won't feel a thing."
First I had an x-ray. Then it was time. I had a special handkerchief
to hold, given to me by my Indian sisters. My heart was beating
fast! When they left the room and the machine began humming,
I still expected to feel it.
It surprised me how quickly it was finished. Less than a minute
each for both sides and the top.
Photo of radiation room similar
to the technology at Sacred Heart
When I arrived for my treatment today I felt so much calmer.
I knew what to expect. They had me wait in the smaller waiting
room. The chairs were almost all full. There were only two men.
The ladies were talking like old friends. They commented on this
being the best place to find outdated magazines. One of the women
asked me if I was new here. "Yesterday was my first day,"
I replied. She introduced herself and told me she was a volunteer.
Ever since her husbands battle with cancer she volunteers
once a week, sitting in the waiting room and offering support.
The other women asked me questions. I noticed that most were
wearing gowns for shirts and thought they probably were here
for breast cancer radiation. One woman mentioned it was her last
week and I said "congratulations!"
It felt good to talk with them. It made me realize how strong
people are and how silly it is that people complain and fret
over small things. I felt like I was the member of a new club
or team. The rookie!
My husband and I noticed that suddenly we are seeing cancer
everywhere! On TV, in the newspaper, and meeting people who have
survived or are battling it. It's funny... like when your are
pregnant and you notice all the pregnant women. My husband describes
it as filters. We have a new filter that allows cancer through.
Next week I'm going to bring some current magazines for the