|– Radiation Journal part 1 -
15days of whole brain radiation
I spend my first night under the quilt, a Christmas present that Cousin Rachel made for me. It reminds me of the blanket cover Aunt Edie sewed for me as a child with rows of tiny houses, like Monopoly hotels; I painted them with my spit, and enjoyed lying in my own scent. Rachel’s engrossing landscape is a pieced perspective like the design I try to figure out in the present days.
First appointment - day after Christmas - is for planning radiation treatment to start on the following day.Planning consists of making a mask with bolt holes, and calculating the angle of the beam with respect to the mask.
The mask covers my head as I lie on my back on the treatment table and bolts into the table to keep my head in the same position from one treatment to the next. It’s made out of some heated plastic material that looks like a piece of flannel, but becomes a mesh as it cools.
The Planning Tech pulls out a nose; and eyes, and measures the place to aim the beam at the side of my head, marking a cross on adhesive tape and affixing it to the side of the mask.. Pictures are taken.
From the mask measurements, two lead blocks are made. One for the right side of my head, one for the left. These block the beam from reaching my face and eyes.
I climb on the table fully dressed, with a light blanket though the room is warm.
My mask is bolted to the table, but I can breathe and talk and be heard. The table moves up and down, backward and forward under the head of the machine, the gantry, that delivers the beam.
The gantry tilts from the left to the right side of the table, and the techs come back in between sides to switch to the other lead block.
The techs are mostly recent graduates of a local university’s two-year graduate program in radiation therapy.When they turn on the beam, the techs leave the room, watch me on a video,
and leave me with the company of AM radio. I can tell when the beam goes on and can estimate the duration of exposure by the length of the song. If the beam is still on when the song ends, they’ll have cooked me, But that doesn’t happen.
This morning, the radio is tuned to the oldies station, during treatment, and I hear “toot toot toot lookin’ out my backdoor,” and “I got you, Babe.” I ask the techs who the singers are and the names of the songs. They don’t know. I can’t believe it. ‘These songs were so popular!’ ‘When were they popular?’ – ‘Late 60s, early 70s,’ I say, remembering dancing in the summer commune. ‘Well,’ they say, ‘we were born in 1985, so we wouldn’t know.’ ‘Do I like the oldies station?’ they want to know. Yes of course I do. My daughter Sarah, who has come with me, later supplies Credence Clearwater Revival, Sonny and Cher - the names I can’t remember.