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2017.05.24 Remembering those photons

By DAVID GREEN

It seems as though I had more time last month when I was giving up four hours every day for a drive to Ann Arbor than I have now. Life has gotten so much busier.

Part of it is making up for the items put on hold for two months; part of it is May. As I’ve said in the past, May is the busiest month of the year for me. Maybe I was just too tired to care during radiation. I got hit pretty good with fatigue.

Sometimes I still think about the radiation routine. I lie on the table, they get me lined up and place me at the scheduled height of 9.9. I don’t know the measurement unit. It certainly isn’t 9.9 feet off the ground, but it makes for a good jump to the floor.

I would almost routinely jump off the table before it was lowered all the way. That was my entertainment. I once asked if I could leap off from 9.9 and the technicians didn’t like that idea. I think on the second to the last visit I surprised them from about 9.4 and landed on my feet just fine.

After I was lined up, I would be asked what I wanted to hear—there’s always music while the machine is running—and I would always say, “The usual, anything but country.” They generally went with classic rock, I suppose because of my classic age.

I was quite attuned to the process anyway and didn’t always hear the music. The techs left the room and settled into their control room. Before long the equipment started moving to provide a quick scan of my abdomen. 

Next came what I called the “pull-back,” when the scan was complete and parts of the machine would draw back away from me.

This was a decisive moment. On good days, a voice would come through a speaker and tell me, “Everything looks good. We’re going to start now.”

On bad days, I would hear the door to the room open and in they walked, talking about too much gas or not enough liquid. 

On other days, no voice would be heard and I would lie there in wait for the tell-tale signs. First the pull-back, then the analysis, and finally the lock-and-load.

Lock-and-load started with a jerk of the equipment, the locking into place as I imagined it. As the weeks went by and I became familiar with the process, I typically smiled when I felt the jerk because I knew it meant the scan was good and they would soon start. 

All too often, though, I would start to doubt my judgment. Had the lock-and-load ever failed me? Have they ever walked back into the room to cancel after I felt that sensation? No, the lock was a safe sign. We were moving forward. This would be all over in a few minutes.

A whirring sound was heard as the arms of the equipment came back from the withdrawal position and assumed a new location to my right and above me.

If I turned my head slightly, I could see the warning sign light up on the wall. I think this told everyone to get the heck out of that room, everyone except me. Soon a second sign would light up as the photon blast began.

After the initial blast, there was a slight pause and the sound of some equipment readjusting before a second, shorter treatment got underway.

I received two doses at each of seven positions, starting off to the right side and below, then working its way up over the top of me and back to the lower position on the left side. It never varied except one time near the end when the work started on the left side and ended on the right. Maybe a rookie was at the controls. It was too early in the morning to escape boredom.

As I told one of the techs, I’m retrofitting my microwave to continue treatments at home. At least I’m working on a photo of that to show them sometime.

I sort of miss the process, but not the drive there and back every day. That was a lot of hours on the road.

When people ask how I’m feeling, I truthfully say that I feel great every day. I am both fine and dandy.

People seem to assume then that it’s all over, so sometimes I don’t let it go there and I point out that feeling good doesn’t necessarily equate to good health. Radiation is an intent to cure, but certainly not a promise.

However, I will gladly take feeling good every day over other possibilities, and so with that the battle continues.