All over but the shouting

Yesterday I climbed on the ‘couch’ for my last boost treatment; sucker that I am for relentless self documentation and this being my last chance ever*, here’s what it looked like:

PG version, of course -wouldn’t want to frighten the children. This was taken by one of the techs right before treatment.

and without the hapless patient, for a better room view:

For the majority of the treatments, the ‘couch’ was perpendicular to the body of the linear accelerator (you can see the circular track on the floor that it moves on), while the gantry and shields swung around me on their circular track.

I didn’t realize until looking at these photos, until the very end of treatment, how much the ‘couch’ portion extended forward from the base – the thing being that as soon as I lay back and turned my head to the right, I needed to stay that way, utterly passive as they finetuned my position, tugging and prodding. This meant I had a very narrow field of vision during treatment – I was functionally blind on the left side of my body, and couldn’t see up or down very far – it really was an extraordinarily vulnerable position to be in, half naked and half blinded, unable to move, with people always buzzing about me, tugging and pushing on my body, flicking in and out of my vision.

I’ll give the technicians and nurses all props here – the vast majority of the time they were excellent about talking to me and keeping me informed of what was going on, and what was about to happen. It can’t be easy – they’re under a time deadline, and are intent on lining the body in front of them up properly, and calibrating everything exactly (and that’s precisely where you’d want their attention to be, given the choice), and then getting ready for the next patient, everyone’s individual props and blocks and radiation regime. It would be very easy indeed for them to treat the person on the couch simply as a problem to be solved, another block of meat to prod and pull into position – and that they didn’t is both amazing and immensely appreciated.

Here are my little individualized props, the custom mold used throughout treatment and the block used to shape the beam for my boost treatments – the block sat in the bottom level of the white piece extending out from the gantry – that piece was used for the boost sessions alone, the rest of the time I faced the gantry’s muzzle directly.

Both of these will be recycled to serve others’ needs – the scars are all I get to take home as souvenirs and reminders, and they’re quite enough really. I shan’t soon forget.

Also, as much as I want to believe it over and done with, I have a host of followup appointments to keep track of coming up, starting November 2 and so on up to the 11th; then resuming in early December. And onward through the years; they’ll be watching. I’m guessing it’ll be six month follow ups at a minimum the first three years.

Other than that endless procession of dates and doctors, these are the last tangible reminders – my own little radiation burns, the boost field blooming redly forth in a field of damaged but already healing skin.  Poppies in October.* Hiroshima Mon Amour.

Beyond that, I am left with this immense tiredness, bags under my eyes that could seriously affect my carry-on allowance. Je suis fatigue. I spent most of the morning wandering about abstractedly about my house; vague plans of doing *things* floating about my ears (the cleaning, the window, the all that remains to be done); picking objects idly up, setting them down again, moving them from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’. Making and drinking more coffee, waiting for the artificial motivation to kick in.

Eventually I cottoned on to the fact that the likelihood of actually accomplishing much in the real world was slim to nil and I should simply accept that. And finish the Halloween candy instead.

And so I did.


More info on the particular linear accelarator used for my treatment here: – it’s a fun animation. Really.

*Pray ye gods and little fishes

*Poppies in October – S. Plath

‘Even the sun-clouds this morning cannot manage such skirts.   
Nor the woman in the ambulance
Whose red heart blooms through her coat so astoundingly——
A gift, a love gift
Utterly unasked for…’ 
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3 Responses to All over but the shouting

  1. HinBC says:

    “All over but the shouting…” and the applause for such a difficult undertaking done with courage and character.

  2. Hey! I recognize that machine! Congrats! I started tamoxifen last week…..They wouldn’t let me take a photo of my boob cut out when I was doing rads LOL – I asked them if I could have it for a twisted cookie cutter but no dice on that either.

    Hugs and cheers. You are amazing ! Feel better soon!

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