Monday, August 1, 2011

The Joys of Radiation

So, I'm starting to have some radiation side effects.

No, not the major scary ones I was worried about. I won't know if I'll be dealing with any of that until the treatments are over. I'm talking about the "mild" side effects like fatigue and diarrhea. They started after about the seventh treatment, and my time in the bathroom hasn't been the same since. But, hey, at least I'm not constipated anymore!

Today was my 10th treatment, and also picture day. Every Monday, before the treatment, I'm positioned and strapped into my mold and told to stay completely still for "pictures". What they mean is that they'll be taking x-rays of me in the exact position I'm placed in every day to make sure my bones and internal organs are lined up identically each time. It's one of the ways they make sure to avoid any major side effects.

I waited in the changing area until Janice, one of my three techs, called my name. Last week, when I came in for treatment, Janice had surprised me and made two CDs for me to listen to while I was in the machine. One was a Motley Crue mix and the other was a Skid Row mix. That made her my new favorite person! As I followed Janice down the hall, I said, "Thank you so much for making those CDs for me. Maybe we can start on the fourth song of the Motley Crue mix today, since that's where I left off on Friday?" But before she had a chance to answer, I heard Skid Row blaring from the player in the treatment room. Janice went to change the disc and I stopped her before she had a chance, "Don't worry! Skid Row is perfect!" I said with a smile.

I removed my outer hospital gown, kicked off my flip flops and sat on the table. I knew the routine by now. I was asked to identify my photo on the screen, confirm my birthday then place my head back on the foam pillow. I allowed my body to be moved into whatever position Janice and Bob needed it to go, while they checked to make sure my tiny tattoos lined up perfectly with the lasers. I held my breath as the freezing cold mold was placed on top of me and locked onto the table. I allowed them to readjust my legs, and breathed again as the hard plastic warmed to the temperature of my body. "Ok, hold still for pictures," Janice said before she and Bob left the room.

I wanted to do as I was told, but my body had other plans. After holding completely still for about five minutes, my right leg began to twitch. "Stop it!" I scolded with my mind. My leg obeyed for a minute, but then my left thigh decided to join the game. Without permission, it also began to shake a bit. Christ! I thought to myself. Can't I just hold still? Well, at least it's only pictures now and not the actual treatment.

Janice walked back in, adjusted something on the machine and said, "Stay still for treatment," and she was gone again.

"Ok," I told myself, "ten buzzes and I'm outta here. Just stay still and sing along with Sebastian Bach." I closed my eyes and tapped my fingers gently to the beat. BUZZZZZZZZZ! Went the machine. One. Click, click, turn...BUZZZZZZZZZZ! Two.

Oh shit! My leg just moved! Oh no! BUZZZZZZZZZZZZ! Three. There it goes again! Why is this happening? I can't move! If I move, I'll end up with a colostomy bag! Stop moving! My muscles tensed and my hips began to ache. Click, Click, turn...BUZZZZZZZZZZZ! Four. Ok, I think I got it under control. Wait, now my hip is moving! Stop!! BUZZZZZZZZZZZ! Five.

Halfway there.

Ok, breathe deeply. In through the nose, out through the mouth. You can do this. All you need to do is stay still. BUZZZZZZZZZ! Six. Oh, my hips and thighs are hurting! Honestly, ten minutes is not a long time. But I want you to try to stay in a position someone else puts you in without moving at all for that long, and see how well you do. Oh, and make sure they strap you down. BUZZZZZZZZZ! Seven. Click, click, turn...BUZZZZZZZZ! Eight.

There they go again! Now it's both legs! Why are they doing this to me? They're ruining my treatment! I want to lie still. I want to do exactly what I'm told. Why won't my body cooperate? BUZZZZZZZZZZ! Nine. One more. Just ONE more. Click, click. Stop. Why did the machine stop before it turned? Why isn't it moving? Oh no! More involuntary movements. Ok, the machine in moving again. Turn. BUZZZZZZZ! Ten!

I won't move until Janice or Bob come in to get me. I know I'm done after the tenth buzz, but I always like to make sure. I mean, what if I miscounted?

Bob came walking into the room just as the song changed from "Youth Gone Wild" to "Slave to the Grind." "All done!" he sang. Oh, thank GOD! My body relaxed and I watched as Bob unstrapped the mold and pulled my gown down to cover what's left of my girlie parts. I sat up, "Thanks, Bob. See you tomorrow." I hopped off the table and felt the soreness in my hips and thighs. It felt like I'd been working out for hours yesterday and I was suffering from the effects of it today. I wish. It's been so long since I've been able to go to the gym.

I hobbled back to the changing room to get dressed. I was so disappointed in myself for letting my body take over my brain. Why couldn't I just hold still?

I plan on talking to Dr. Sidebotham about this tomorrow during my Tuesday check-up. I need to make sure these involuntary twitches won't ruin my treatments, or worse, my internal organs. I keep thinking about everything that can go wrong and I'm scaring myself to death.

On another note, I think my hair is starting to fall out. There's just a little more on the shower floor after I wash it, and a few more strands between my fingers when I play with it. And when I pluck the grays (which I really shouldn't do, at this point), they come out with less than a little tug. I wonder if I can just hold onto it long enough to get married with clip-in extensions and not a full wig? That would be super cool. Jimmi says I'll still be sexy when I'm bald.

Jimmi is full of shit.

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