Radiating Me

There are 3 primary, approved cancer treatments in the United States: chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation therapy. Radiation comes at the end of treatment as a targeted attempt to kill any cancer cells that may still exist after surgery. A precisely-placed, high-energy beam is used consecutively, usually over a 5 to 6 week period, to damage cancer cells. It’s a “mopping up” process for any remaining malignent cells. 

Generally, if you have a breast cancer tumor that is 5 centimeters or larger, radiation therapy is recommended. Since my post-surgical pathology revealed my tumor to be 5.5 centimeters (quite large), here I am - about to radiate the left side of my chest 5 days a week for the next 5 weeks.

By the end of my first week, I am already very comfortable with my Radiation Oncology office.

I arrive at exactly the same time every afternoon for my standing appointment. I know the lady who goes in before me, the older woman who adorns her bright sweatsuits with marvelous high heels and big earrings. She touches my shoulder when she says hello. I know the lady who goes in after me. She is always early, sometimes arriving before me; she has shoulder-length blonde hair but likes to compliment how well I wear my “adorable” brown re-growth. I covet her ponytail every time she mentions my sprouts. 

I read the same issue of Consumer Digest for a month, one page at a time during the short interims in the waiting room. I always glance at the offering of cookies or candies by the coffee machines as I walk past, but don't take any. (I haven't figured out if they're for patients or employees.) I know the receptionist’s name and favorite flower, how the nurse likes to spend her lunch break walking, how often my techs wash their dogs and dye their hair... I know this place and these people fast, as will happen with the familiarity of frequency.

Strangely, it has a good feel to it though.

Maybe I like it here because it’s so much preferable to the Oncologist’s office, which I loathe with a passion. Maybe it’s because this office is fabulously close to my house and has free parking, very unlike my other doctors on both counts. Maybe it’s because this treatment won't make my hair fall out or my stomach queasy, and it doesn't require being cut open. Maybe it's because the doctor is warm, genuine and fantastically thorough.
For a place that's radioactively burning in the inside of my chest wall, there's a lot to like about it.

1 comment:

  1. Ill be starting radiation at the end of June/early July. Strangely I already have some of the same feelings you do and I haven't started yet.