Friday, July 22, 2011

Beam Me Up, Scotty

A torso profile, a tomahawk, a bullhorn, a photographic histogram, a larger torso profile - these are the shapes of my radiation. They are made by a ten-foot-tall machine called Trilogy. The radiation comes out of an appendage that looks like Trilogy’s head. She forms the shapes by shifting small lead plates in her face. Photons shoot out of every part of her face not covered by the lead plates.

While I’m getting treated, I’m looking right at Trilogy’s face, watching the invisible radiation hit my chest. Trilogy is just inches away. I should be thinking about the beams killing off any cancer cells that might have been left behind. The treatment is supposed to ruin cell DNA so they can’t replicate.

But I’m usually wondering if my skin is going to hold up until treatment is over. I have just 8 treatments left but my skin is raw and red like a fire hydrant from my breast to my armpit where the beams hit me.

A red warning light flashes on the wall in front of me while Trilogy delivers the radiation. The light means “Danger. Get lost.” And the lab workers do.

No one else is around. The technicians exit the concrete lined room and shut the five-inch thick vault door before they turn Trilogy on. They all wear radiation meters to make sure they’re avoiding exposure.

After a couple minutes, Trilogy rotates her head around and underneath me. As she passes over my head, she makes different shapes with her plates. I can’t tell if she’s showing off, stretching or what.

Jamie, a lab technician, walks in, shifts the board I’m laying on and exits the room, closing the vault door again.

“This is treatment,” she says through the speaker and camera system. Trilogy emits a low hum. The flashing wall light turns on again.

You’re not supposed to feel anything during radiation. But sometimes I can feel my body slightly warm and stiffen while I’m on the table.

I lay very still. My body is covered with orange positive and negative signs to help the technicians line it up so just the right parts get radiated. My arms are held in place over my head by a mold formed just for me.

The doctor told me the radiation would likely scar about 10 to 15 percent of my right lung and could make my rib cage more prone to fractures if I were in a car accident in the future. There is a very small chance it could cause another cancer in that region. But the treatment also significantly reduces my chances of a reccurence.

The whole thing reminds me of a scene from Star Trek II where Spock enters a room to fix an engine part that is spewing radiation. He later dies from the exposure but manages to save the ship and everyone on it. I’m not sure why I always think of this scene. I suppose it is because I’m in this room where no one wants to be. But I enter it in hopes of a better outcome.

1 comment:

  1. KJ, you are so brave. And whenever I read your blog, it changes my life perspective a little bit. I love you. Keep being so strong and wonderful.