When you need radiation therapy, you go for an initial appointment where you get “mapped”. They line you up to a big machine and measure and mark where the radiation beams will land.
First they did all the normal doctory stuff: temperature, blood pressure, and in my case, arm measurements to make sure I’m not suffering from lymphedema. Then the nurse told me the finer points of enduring radiation. No fragranced lotions in the area, special lotion immediately after the appointment and…no deodorant on the treated side. Wait. What? No deodorant? I didn’t understand this. “Am I going to to smell for six weeks?” The nurse’s answer? “Just have your friends stand to the right.” Oh okay. I guess. She said that it would be okay to use cornstarch under my left arm though. Yay?
After speaking to the doctor for a few minutes, it was time to visit another room to be mapped. There was a special plank that had dials and numbers and red lasers-and they said I had to lay on it. I’m not a terribly big person, but it was a pretty small area and I wasn’t too sure that I was going to fit. They said that I should lay very still, which wasn’t hard since I was terrified that one little flinch would send me over the edge and onto the floor!
Next I had to raise my left arm over my head, place my bicep in a cuff, and place my wrist in a hook-like thing. Then they got out the tool that seems to be overused by both teachers and doctors: a permanent marker. They looked at me, poked me, and marked me. I had my head turned away so I couldn’t see what they were doing. Then it was time to go in the big machine for a few minutes. When I was finished, I looked down and saw that I was marked with four big black Xs. One on either side of my rib cage and two in the center of my chest. The radiation therapist put some clear stickers over the Xs and reminded me to “shower lightly” in those areas and only pat them dry. Do you know what a treasure map looks like with the gold filled “X marks the spot” spot? That’s kind of how my front looks–except that I have four “X marks the spot” spots. Quite alluring, no?
Fast forward six days and it was time for my first official radiation appointment. When they brought me back, I was sent into a small room where I had to change into a hospital gown (ties in the back). Then they led me into a room that had a giant, heavy door that had to be several feet thick. This room was reminiscent of the sick bay on Star Trek: lots of red lasers, flashing buttons, and odd-looking machines. I had to lay on another small plank while they lined up my Xs with the machine. At one point, a random red laser thing was shining directly into my right eye, ouch. Soon I was asked to lie perfectly still, with absolutely no moving. Within five seconds of getting this directive, my left eyebrow began to itch like no other itch in the world. It was pure torture! Then the torture increased when the therapist came in and declared that Dr. C wanted me to have a sticky ice blanket placed on my chest to help shield my lung. I was told again to not move or flinch in any way while the
torture device sticky ice blanket was situated. So cold!
When the actual treatment started, it was over in 100 seconds and I was free to go. When I left I was reminded that I had to use an ointment like Aquaphor on the treated area every day to help my skin heal. I did it when I got home, but it feels pretty slimy and wet. But keeping up with taking care of my skin will help my future reconstruction surgery, so I’m in.
And so, If you notice I have a big greasy stain on the left side of my chest, don’t say anything. You shouldn’t be on my left side anyway, since that’s the smelly non-deoderant side…don’t say anything about that either.