Radiotherapy in a nutshell

No joking around, I am t-i-r-e-d. They say that radiotherapy can cause exhaustion, and while the majority is due to radiation, at least some of it has got to be due to routine. And speaking of which, here is my Radiotherapy Routine, which I’m guessing is similar to others undergoing treatment.

Every morning I take a shower and scrub down. Why not in the evening, you might ask? Because revealing two sweaty armpits while a group of people lean into your chest is embarrassing. My first radiotherapy session, I go in and take off the three layers of shirts (undershirt, t-shirt, jumper) and was most definitely sweating with nerves. Getting on the table, the nurse asks me to raise my arms above my head and – whew!—in that shaming moment the lesson was learnt. No more night-time showers, it’s every morning from now on. Nothing like complete strangers having to inhale your body odours to drive a lesson home.

Right. So I take a shower and put on fresh clothes.  Makeup, deodorant, perfume etc are not allowed.

Next Zsolt drives me to the hospital. This is generally pleasant until we reach the hospital parking lot. The radiotherapy ward shares a teeny tiny parking lot with eye care emergencies . . . and I don’t know how many people are sticking objects into their eyes per day, but this parking lot is always full. So, per routine, I get out of the car and check to see whether any places are available. If not, we wait at the parking lot entrance until someone finishes their business with the hospital and leaves. Today while waiting, cars behind us somehow assumed we were broken down and started driving into the parking lot, totally gong-ho on finding a spot, only to reverse their metallic butts back into line once they realized there were no places, duh (expect for one line cutter, but she got a honking).

Anyhow, at this point, with or without Zsolt, who may or may not still be waiting for a spot, I head into the radiotherapy department.  It’s essentially a large hallway with padded chairs and magazines. The ceiling is high, the lighting is bright and there is a garden area that is currently seal off due to poor weather.  I scan my bar code – there is no receptionist – and wait to be called.

The longest I’ve waited to be called is about ten minutes. These people are fast.

“Catherine Brunelle” and I go in.

During my first appointment they took several measurements – by the time I was allowed to move again my arm had gone numb. However, since then it’s been much faster.

They escort you into a large room, center of which is a scanning-type machine with a long, hard bed/table  covered in paper. The table has a rest for your butt to be pushed against, a board to anchor your feet on, and some holders for the arms. It’s like the dentist chair taken to a higher, harder level of discomfort. And it’s flatter.

In the background music plays. You take off your clothes (whatever may be necessary) and get onto the table.

At which point they ask you to look up at the ceiling, totally relax your body, and let them move you around. As this happens the nurses have a very strange discussion: “A little emph here” “9.8 emph” “Lined up here” “A bit emph to the right” “13” “9.7” “10” “Emph?”

Okay, so if aliens were to abduct me tonight and lay me on their hard lab table, maybe they would use a similar language to these nurses. I have no idea what they’re talking about, and they have no time to explain. It’s all very quick.

But this isn’t an abduction. On the ceiling there is a picture of a tree with blossoms.

They move me very slightly here and there – I’m not quite sure what the point is because despite doing my best ‘rag doll’ impression, I’m bound to be moving a milimeter here and there, plus when the table rises or falls those vibrations shake me around.

Anyhow, they move me into position and the nurse put this rubbery/gel-ish ‘blanket’ across the area to be shot. Apparently this fools the machine into thinking it’s treating the area, and the skin ends up with more radiation. This is a good thing? Anyhow, they tape the blanket to my chest and then boot it outta there.

It’s just me and the machine.

The sounds start – machine sounds, a lot of quiet whirling, and then the radiation . . .

Firstly, it doesn’t hurt to be shot with radiation. Apparently the reaction comes later. Secondly, the beam is invisible. But there is a sound. An ugly sound. The loud static buzz of bees. Ugh.

And then the machine does it’s thing on one side, then the other, and then it’s done. Presto. The entire treatment take about six or seven minutes.

After which I throw my clothes back on, say goodbye to the nurses, Zsolt validates the parking and we go home.

Three days down. Twelve more to go. As of yet there is no reaction, but it’s still early days. Fingers crossed for some good progress!

Friendly in real life

As my day passes – and maybe you can relate? – I’m constantly barraged with ideas for posting. They shout out as me while walking through the corridor, sipping tea, checking messages, picking my nose.  If it were quantified, I’d estimate that around 6% of my ideas actually make it to the internet.

So when I signed up for twitter with the intention of meeting people, building connections, talking to friends and all that other networking/social mediafying buzz, who knew it’d become so overly stimulating and nearly explode  my brain with inspiration.

Twitter and facebook are significantly different. Facebook is more targeted, more personal. Twitter just never stops – it’s the social media equivalent of pi. Hopping on for a ‘quick look’ means staying too long for a peruse of people’s links, topics, ideas, and so on – and you know what, about 97% of these people are strangers. Strangers! I’m stopping to exchange with people whom I’ve never met before, and because it’s online that is A-okay.

So why isn’t it in real life?

Here is what happened to me yesterday while on break from the library. Contrasted against the social ease of Twitter, it was totally bizarre.

Right. There I am in my blue exercise top and too saggy dark jeans, slouched over on the beaten leather sofa that is situated against the only heater in the corridor of my campus, opposite the canteen, with a navy sock-thing covering my chicken-fluff hair. (How is that for an excessively descriptive sentence? I’m gaging on the adjectives.) It’s a public area and I’m hugging the radiator with a cup of tea in one hand, and a newspaper on my lap opened to an article about Egypt.

Things are normal for the Avenue: students are scattered around, everyone is involved in their worlds. My glasses are on the table.

Okay – stage is set. Here is the bizarre bit, which honestly should not be bizarre at all, considering I just started a conversation with @completestranger on Twitter.

A lady walks by and I glance up as she passes. She slows – not a full stop, but a kind of ‘I recoginze you but my feet are still moving’ type of slow down – and says, “Hello!”

So I smile, and say, “Hello.”

And then she stops just a moment, gets slightly closer (but not too close, don’t worry) and says: “How are you doing?”

Which was so strange!

Of course, what could I do? I say, “I’m doing well, thanks.” (Never say you’re ‘good’, because there’s a high chance an older lady will swoop down from nowhere and correct your grammar, as I once experienced.) And she walks away.

This is why I feel the entire exchange was different – and by different, I mean really great, but also really unexpected:

  1. In England, people do not generally say ‘How are you?’ in passing. They say ‘Are you alright?’ instead.
  2. I have never seen this lady before. Mind you, my glasses were on the table and she was essentially a passing, blond, smiling blur – but I didn’t recognize the fuzzy features. (And if you are reading this post, and I should have recognized you – I really do apologize and would like to blame it on my lack of glasses. Normally I’m excellent at remembering faces . . . not names, but faces).

So what warranted the slowdown and smile? The smile, I get – I smile at everyone who’s looking. But the slowdown and smile? Followed by an inquiry of wellbeing?

And so, I was ‘liked’, or ‘retweeted’, or plainly said: made to feel good by a stranger. A stranger in the real world.  Why was it so startling?

Everyone feels better when someone cares, even in small portions.  A smile shows you care (if only in small portions), and I firmly believe people ought to smile as they pass. It’s one Canadian habit that is highly commendable. But this woman took things a step further. She actually wanted to know how I was doing, it wasn’t a passing substitute for ‘hello’, and I was not prepared for her interest.

But you know what? I remembered her. Her fuzzy, blurry shape has been seared into my mind and for the rest of the day I reflected on the exchange. This is more than I can say about the tweets and comments of social media. They have their use, and are great for introductions, but I think significant connections must go beyond 140 characters.

What’s really fascinating and significant is that bottom line – inspiration hits from all angles, and twitter/facebook are no exception; but it’s the real stuff, in the real world, those real feelings and emotional experiences, which create an impression on my life. And it’s that stuff, the best stuff, which makes it into Bumpyboobs.

I’m quite happy for the lady and her kind inquiries. It was a great treat for the day, and gave me a whole lot to consider.

One Wig Stand interview

A few good things have come from using Twitter – and one of those good things is my introduction to a young woman who is the power behind One Wig Stand. Her blog connects with those who care about breast cancer – but it’s focused on the stories of Lebanese women in an effort to crush taboos. This is a good blog, and it’s worth checking out.

Now here is the flattering bit. She asked me for an interview. You know how third party compliments are the very best? “Jessica said the other day that she thought you are brilliant.” Well, another great compliment is being asked to interview for an inspirational blog.

If you want to read it : follow this link to One Wig Stand.