Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Let me tell you about radiotherapy.
It sounds quite soft, really – “radio” promising maybe the songs you grew up with, “therapy” conjuring massage while Eastern music plays in the background and incense burns down.
But it’s hard. It’s cold. This is what you do for six or seven weeks: You wait in a room with the other cancer victims, reading the captions on photographs of old English houses in magazines until they call your name.
You have a little locker; that’s how much a part of your life this is. Inside is a thin, striped dressinggown. You process yourself; undress in a cubicle, carry your outside clothes in a little basket to another, smaller waiting room. When the technicians are ready, you assume the position on the machine, like this: head on a moulded plastic pillow, knees locked over a protrusion in the metal tray you’re on, both arms over your head, gripping twin handlebars, the right side of your chest exposed. You can see it reflected in the glass plate above you, looking in the semi darkness like a boy’s chest, ribs visible where your breast used to be.
The technicians fuss around your body and the machine, marking little x’s and lines on the skin with blue pencil. A light snaps on inside the machine, projecting the image of a ruler in white light onto your skin. Red laser beams line up with the ruler, and the technicians leave the room. The massive steel head of the machine whirrs and shifts, moving over your body a foot or so away. You don’t move.
An atonal, high-volume buzzing sounds danger, get out, to everyone but you as the X-rays beam senselessly into your body. It stops, the lights come on, the technicians fuss. Again. And again. Glass plates showing the outline of where the cancer might be slide in and out of the machine.
It’s important to keep your chin up at this point, to minimise damage to the throat.
When you’re done, you dress, stow the gown in your locker for tomorrow, slip on your beanie over your still-too-short hair.
This will go on until your skin is burned and you are weak with radiation poisoning. It’s good for you; statistically it means a few less bullets in that hundred-chambered gun called “percentage likelihood of recurrence”.
You will be grateful for these afternoons in a darkened room, alone with the machine. You might not die. Not yet.

Wow, you're a really excellent writer : ) I'm so sorry to hear what you are going through...my wife has never had radiotherapy but has been on hard chemotherapy for nearly three years, due to stage IV cancer. She's only 29.

Keep up the great writing. You have an obvious talent. And keep fighting...yeah, I know...like you have a choice, eh?

All The Best,
my best to your wife; I never did figure out exactly what stage I was at, three or four, i don't know. 29 is far, far too young; it's never fair, but for some it's less fair than others.
really like your blog...
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