Radiation Orientation Calibration

The treatment vacation is coming to an end and boy, it’s been nice. Now that I have been done with chemo for a month, the lingering side effects are slowly dissipating and my energy is on its way back up. It’s funny, during treatment when I felt my best I thought that my energy was decent, well, I was wrong. I guess when you’re in the middle of it all ‘high energy’ is relative. In hindsight, my energy was terrible, I was tired all the time and I had to take a break after taking a break.

A week or so ago I went in for my radiation therapy orientation and felt all those nerves of the unknown all over again. I had a chat with myself in the waiting area: shake it off, this is just an orientation, they aren’t actually doing anything today. PLUS, you made it through surgery AND chemo already. Be Brave.

As usual, the first thing I have to do is my regular weigh in. I feel like I’m doing Weight Watchers but without the high energy meeting leader that used to be fat, loves her job but secretly wishes she was eating McDonald’s in the parking lot. Oh, and without actually losing weight. Once that’s done and I make my usual “I’m uncomfortable because you are weighing me” joke that gets zero laughs I get sent to a little room to watch an informational video outlining what to expect during radiation (actually really helpful to remove a lot of the unknowns).

Then I was brought into a room with a CT machine and a few nurses/technicians, took my gown off (don’t worry, they asked me to…and I still had pants on) and laid down on the bed part of the machine. They asked me to put my arms above my head and once I was in the right position they sucked the air out of this pillow thing, creating a mold of my upper body. That pillow is now mine for the duration of my radiation and once I’m done they will refill it with air and use it for someone else.

The next part was full of the nurses/technicians using terminology that I didn’t understand along with lasers and lights (but no Pink Floyd playing). They used the lasers to line up the machine, indicating where the radiation is going to travel and when they were happy with the positioning they made a few markings on my chest and side with a sharpie. Eventually they turned on the CT and scanned making sure that, based on the markings that they made, the radiation would only hit the stuff it is supposed to.

When all of that was done I got my sweet new tattoos. Part of me was hoping that some super tattooed guy wearing an old Metallica tour t-shirt, backwards baseball hat and a beard was going to come in with his tattoo gun. Not so much. One of the nurses put a drop of ink on my skin at each of the sharpie markings and then poked the middle with a needle. So basically it’s even more hardcore than Metallica guy came in, I got a stick and poke tattoo.

What do the tattoos look like? Remember that Friends episode where Rachel and Phoebe go to get tattoos and after Rachel gets her heart tattoo it’s Phoebe’s turn but after one touch with the tattoo gun Phoebe chickens out and is left with a dot? It looks like that. Two dots on my chest and one on my side to help calibrate the radiation machine every day when I go for treatment.

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So now I wait to be called for day 1 of radiation.

* Update – apparently my pillow busted a leak while being stored so I have to go back and do it all over again. 

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