PROJECT: 05-DJC:174.9

This is Deirdre's Breast Cancer Diary. I try to update this blog at least every evening. This is an easy way for me to keep a journal of the experience, and at the same time, I can keep my friends and family up-to-date on what is going on. I find it is not so bad to have cancer, but it is awfully depressing to talk about it. I hope you laugh as you read along. You can find the beginning in February the archives. Thanks again for reading :o)

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Radiation Oncology ...continued

Okay, so I'm lying on my back with my arm way up over my head. They keep the room is pretty cool (which is kinda nice, since it's about 96 degrees outside). Now I have my hospital gown over whatever pants I wore to radiation and my left breast is exposed. The radiation therapists are in the room, Sharpies in hand (locked and loaded).
Then, all of a sudden, it's like I'm in some weird kind of bingo hall. Everyone starts shouting out these weird numbers and coordinates and settings: "Tilt is 20" or "First tabletop = 20.8" and "SSD (source to skin distance) 100" and "Shift 9.2". Sometimes they say "2 cm inf (inferior)" or "353.5". What I've come to learn is that these are my personal table and machine settings. These settings assure I am lying on the table in the exact way every time, so the radiation machine hits me in the same place every time. I THINK that they use them to trace the lines cast on me from the radiation machine to help "line up" the next blast I get. The radiation machine has something like cross-hairs and they are projected on my chest like a projector projects onto a movie screen. Once the therapists have me on the table in the correct position, they make tick marks on my chest which they use to line up successive shots. Once while they were drawing on me, I said, "when I put my arm down it looks like a smiley face". When I got in the shower the next day, I saw that Gretchen had actually drawn a smiley face on my shoulder. HA! Who says those therapists don't have a sense of humor?
And so it goes. The therapists come in after each blast of radiation to adjust me (or the table I'm on) in some way, or to change the block.
[When they are radiating my breast they put a cartridge on the xray machine that has a block on it to shield my face from the rays. When the machine moves to shoot the breast from the other side, they switch out the cartridge - which seems to be made from acrylic or plexiglass or something like that, and the block is made or sero (I think that's what Robert called it - it looks like pewter or some kind of silver metal) - so that my face is protected from the other side - kind of like putting on a right handed baseball glove to catch with your right hand, then putting on a left handed baseball glove to catch with your left hand.]
The machine gives me a blast of radiation to my left breast from the right side, then a blast of the same breast from the left side. Then the machine goes upside down and blasts my axilla area ( underarm) from the bottom up, and finally a 40 second blast to my supraclavicular area.
Yesterday, however, we added another field to the "radiation dance". We added my left humerus. Ha Ha. Very funny. (I couldn't resist)
So, after my supraclav blast, I get up off the table and the therapists lean over the table and after five or ten seconds and a flurry of arm movements, the table is transformed. It is now flat and the leg rest has been removed and the headrest replaced. I lie down (again, on my back) and hoist my arm way back and flat on the table above my head.
The arm doesn't take as long to blast. Just two shots: one from the top and one from underneath.
The entire radiation appointment is quite pleasant, now that I am getting to know the therapists and the procedures. It was a little frightening at first: all sorts of activity that I had no clue about and I didn't know the people who were touching me. I was told not to speak, you know. I guess speaking moves your body.... Anyway there was a point where I was considering using my own sharpie on my left breast before my appointment. I was just going to write "Hi! How are y'all doing?" ...hoping that would get them to laugh and maybe loosen up a bit.
I didn't have to resort to defacing my own body, thanks to every patient's advocate, Kristen. I told Kristen I was lonely because no one would talk to me or tell me what was going on, and she went screaming down the hall "Talk to Deirdre! Make SURE you talk to Deirdre!" Except she said "DEE-Dra" or maybe she said "The Blogger"..she likes to call me "The Blogger".
Now I can't get any quiet in the radiation room. ;-) (just kidding)
I really enjoy my radiation appointments. I do. And the ice cream is only part of the reason.


  • At 2:29 PM, Blogger God's Child said…

    I'm thinking you don't feel the blasts and feel stupid for asking. But, do you feel the blasts?

  • At 2:36 PM, Blogger Jimmy said…

    hey nice blog. I'm actually just starting my blog yesterday. check it out sometime. thanks.

  • At 5:06 PM, Blogger melissa said…

    She should call you... "Your Most Emninent Raining Queen of Blogsville" LOL




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