It is more important to know where you are going, than how long it takes to get there.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Tattooed Lady...

Yesterday I had my own personal mapquest; I was "mapped" for radiation. The process was interesting and, of course, modesty crushing.

The first part of my appointment was called "teaching." My oncologist's nurse explained the procedure of radiation and the side effects. The teaching lasted a long thirty minutes. What I learned is not to be late for my appointment or the next person will be put in your slot, and that my radiated skin is going to get very red, and sensitive. She explained the different creams that may be applied to the skin to relieve some of the burning and itching. (I began applying Jean's Cream today.) It took thirty minutes for me to retain all this information that is written in a packet. After the teaching she walked me to the radiation area and showed me the changing room.

After I changed into the stylish, faded blue-patterned "robe", aka johnny, Dr. Dad met me in the CT Scan waiting room. He explained in greater detail the side effects of radiation. The radiated skin will get very red and possibly blistered like a very bad sunburn. The other major side effect is feeling tired. He said that the more I walk, the less tired I will feel. (So how do you walk if you are too tired, but you need to walk so you don't feel tired?) I will feel very little side effects during the first two weeks of radiation, but the side effects will linger for two weeks after radiation ends. The major risks associated with radiation involve the lungs and the heart because they are the next layers underneath the radiated area. The lung is the first layer under the chest wall, and sometimes the outer edge can get a little radiation resulting in some breathing issues. (I have so many breathing issues right now, I wonder if I would even notice.) He explained that during the scan, they might have me take a breath and hold it so that he could get a better image by separating the lung and the radiated area. He said that issues with the lungs are rare. Because my left side is radiated, the heart is in the neighborhood. It is extremely rare for the heart to become involved resulting is heart-related issues. After this happy conversation with Dr. Dad, a radiology tech took me into the CT Scanning room.

Like all x-ray and scanning rooms, it was cold, and my hot flashes made it feel even colder. The CT Scan is the big donut-shaped scanning machine. The narrow table moves in and out of the machine several times during the scanning process. When I looked at the table, it looked like something out of a torture movie - it had two pairs of stirrups at one end, a cradle-like restraining holder between the stirrups, and a triangular block at the other end. I could not figure out how I was going to lay on this table, and all I could think is that this does not look comfortable! The cradle was for my head, the stirrups were for both my arms and the triangle foam block was for under my knees to relieve the pressure on my back. It wasn't as bad as it looked. When I put my arms over my head, Tech Guy adjusted the stirrups/holders to a more comfortable position. I don't have full range of motion on my left side, so it felt a bit strained. On the ceiling and both walls, situated just outside the CT Scan, were panels that projected red lasers onto me, that I think formed a laser grid. The set up takes longer than the scan.

After my first scan that took about five minutes of me moving in and out of the machine, Tech Guy and Tech Gal came in and place "bebes" all over me - stickers with a metal center to mark locations. Tech Guy read off numbers from the computer screen in the room while Tech Gal place the markers. After she placed the markers, Tech Gal used a sharpee marker to draw lines adjacent to the bebes. After I was all marked up, I finally got to put my arms down while Dr. Dad read the scans. Tech Guy brought in warmed sheet and placed it over me. It felt so good. Dr. Dad ordered another scan, but this time he wanted me to take a breath and hold it during one of the passes through the scan. The second scan confirmed that the first markers were correctly placed.

Next it was time to make the markers permanent so that when I get radiation treatments, the machines will precisely line up with the markers each time, and insure the I am radiated in, and only in, the correct areas. I received six tattoos the size of big freckles. Six! And it hurt! I may have been sliced, diced, poked and needled over the last several months, but these dumb tattoos really hurt. What must a big tattoo feel like when it is getting applied? How did two of my siblings manage to get such large tattoos? (Oops, did I just spill some beans? Oh well, beans are good for you.)

Before this appointment, Molly warned me that "tatoos are addicting." Where does this 10-year-old get her material? It can't be from t.v. because I don't allow the girls to watch WTT - White Trash Television. There goes my future as a side show at the carnival...(Do you remember when people once paid to see a tatooed lady at a carnival? Now , if go to a mall, you can see several of them walking around, and it's free!)

After I got up from being stretched, scanned, marked and tattooed, I unexpectedly felt a little queasy. Fortunately, the radiation area has a "nutrition room" stocked with water, ginger ale, Sprite, and crackers. I felt better after ginger ale and a few soda crackers.

Radiation begins next Monday, September 20, at 8:45 a.m. It will be the same time every day, five days a week, for six and a half weeks. I selected 8:45 because I want to get it done early in the day, and it coincides with dropping off Molly at school. The first treatment on Sept. 20 will be a dry-run, with just x-rays and no radiation. This dry-run is to insure that they marked exactly the right areas to be radiated. I have a radiation ID card that I scan for check-in, no receptionist, just a bar code scan. The scan sends a message to the radiation techs that I have arrived, and that I am in the locker room changing into lovely gown. The ID card is scanned again before the radiation treatment to insure I receive the correct treatment. You gotta love technology!

Whacky thought for the day...
Does anyone but me have a difficult time with the usage of "effect" versus "affect?"

Sept 13th - Happy Birthday Jane!


  1. Thinking of you Keval...all the time...I was an English major and effect and affect continue to confuzzle me.

  2. One of the machines in the Cox building had a picture of a cat attached above the donut. I looked at it and said "Of course, it's a CAT scan!" Radiologists have a whacky sense of humor...

  3. Hi,

    I have never blogged before or responded to a blogger but today I was looking up the number for the MRI place in Danvers at Beverly hospital and your blog came up. I live in Manchester too. I recently met a women from California and thought she was the nicest women I had met in a while! I have two daughters and am dealing with a health issue and when I say issue that is all I know of what is it- I am going for my 9th MRI . I finally looked at my neurologist on Tuesday and said "what if all of the MRI's you have made me have are causing my symptoms" he just laughed and said that's ridiculous if anything you would just be stuck walking North and laughed! I had to laugh to because at this point that is all I can do. I relate to a lot of the feelings you have and since I am on a honking dose of prednisone I can stay up all night and type about it :)!! I hope you are feeling okay