The adventure continues. This week I began radiotherapy (aka "les Rayons") at the cancer center. As my primary care physician promised it was a whole different kettle of fish from the chemo. No nausea and no long lazy afternoons on the drip (and that's a huge relief) but also a lot less "amitié solidaire" which I miss. A lot.
The first appointment on Tuesday was the longest - about 30 minutes - because in addition to the tattoos I got last time and the orientation, the technician drew arcane designs on my chest in permanent ink. These are used in order to properly position the device for each session. I thought about taking a picture and showing it to you but to tell you the truth the way my scarred, tattooed, inked torso looks these days scares the hell out of me. Something tells me that you would find this to be TMI (too much information). So let's just say that the area between my neck and my waist looks something like a cross between this:
So how does it work now that I've been drawn and quartered? Every day I walk to Versailles-Chantiers, take the train in to Saint Cloud, go to the radiotherapy reception desk where I flash my membership card and pick up my chart. Then I take the elevator down into the bowels of the clinic (-3), slip my chart through a slot in a door and find a seat in the waiting room. When they call my name I enter a small dressing room where I store my things, hang up my coat, undress to the waist, slip on a sweater, and walk into the chamber with the accelerator. The operator then positions me under the device and leaves the room. A bell chimes and then the machine takes over and starts moving about (reminds me of every Terminator movie I've ever seen). When the device stops in what I presume is the correct position, I hear clicking noises that I imagine is the device shooting the photons into me.
What is my job in all of this? To stay as still as possible and relax. Not too hard since the entire session lasts for less than 5 minutes. As of yesterday that was 4 session downs and about 20 more to go. I will be done just before Christmas.
The whole business is quite efficient. The process is clear and thus far every appointment has been on time and I am literally in and out in a matter of minutes. And that turns out to be both a good and a bad thing. The good part is that I have a schedule and I can plan my day around my appointments. The part I don't like so much is that there isn't really much human interaction in the process. I present a card and get my file. I slip my file into the door and wait until my name is called. After being positioned on the table under the machine I am left alone in the room while I'm being radiated. It's a little like an assembly line and while almost everyone is very kind there really isn't any time to talk and to get to know anyone.
Not that I'm complaining about the staff mind you. These people are trying to save my life which means they have my eternal gratitude. But I am missing the solidarity that I experienced in the chemo service where one really feels like it's a team effort and everyone (staff and patients alike) has the time to get to know each other.
That was my impression after my first week. Perhaps my feelings about it will change over the next few days. In fact it is far more likely that I will find unexpected treasures in this new experience if I can learn to let go of the old one and stop judging. In fact there is something really funny about me feeling nostalgic for chemo. No reason to think that radiation therapy will be better or worse than chemo - just different. And as Pema Chodron said, "Everything in our lives can wake us up or put us to sleep, and basically it's up to us to let it wake us up."