Every day, Monday through Friday, I head over to MD Anderson for radiation treatment. It takes about 45 minutes each day. Some days I have other appointments too, like physical therapy.
I have magic marker drawings all over my abdomen to tell the technicians where to aim the radiation. I’ve heard of people who have “tattoo” markings, but mine are magic marker markings that wash off if I’m not careful. The markings are not completely hidden by my clothing — at the neckline they are visible.
They told me “take a shower, just don’t aim any water at where the markings are.” Have you ever tried to take a shower and leave JUST the middle part of your body dry? It’s might near impossible. The most stressful part of my life these days is trying to get clean without washing off my markings.
(When you live in Houston in the summer, skipping daily showers is not an option.)
Radiation is also aimed at my neck, but there are no magic markings on my neck. They made a hard plastic mesh mask of my face/neck/shoulders, and that mask attaches to the radiation table.
So, here’s how it works: I come into the radiation room and lie on the table. They put the mask on me to secure my head and make sure it is in the exact same position every time. They attach the mask to the bed, and for the ensuing 45 minutes I feel like I am going to die from claustrophobia. The white mesh mask has markings on it to guide the radiation technicians.
I’m on the bed, and the radiation machines revolve around me and do their thing. It doesn’t hurt, it’s just uncomfortable to wear that mask.
Not everyone in radiation wears a mask. Talking with the others in the waiting room, I’ve discovered there to be many different radiation situations. One flamboyant lady said she sings during radiation. I can hardly swallow, much less sing.
After two weeks, my neck is starting to feel burned and it looks a little red. I was told my skin may turn almost black and might even break open and “ooze,” but not to worry about it too much. Not everyone’s skin even turns red, but it would just be my rotten luck to become a red neck.
I haven’t yet noticed an increase in fatigue since starting radiation. I was napping 1-4 hours per day before radiation even started, so I’m just maintaining my usual schedule. I am the queen of naps.
So, there you have it.
- I have unexplained nausea. It started prior to my radiation treatment. Pray for them to find the cause and/or for it to go away.
- I will lose the use of one of my salivary glands from radiation. A resulting dry mouth can cause my teeth to rot. I’m on prescription fluoride toothpaste to help protect my teeth. Eventually my other three salivary glands will compensate and create more saliva, but it is dangerous in the meantime. Pray that God will protect my teeth in His very special way.
- My esophagus will also become red and irritated by radiation. I’m started to feel this already. There’s not much the doctors can do to stop it from hurting. Please ask God to comfort my esophagus.
- My rock hard neck and right shoulder hurt a lot and are the focus of my physical therapy. Pray I regain proper use of my neck and shoulder. I’ve had trouble with them since my surgery on April 15th, and they are the source of most of my pain.
- Pray that the cancer will stay away forever.
- My car’s interior will be replaced, but the insurance company and repair shop say that otherwise my car works fine now. I’ll get my car back within the coming week.