It’s so strange what can trigger a person. For me, it’s tattoos. Not beautiful tattoos of self-expression, but rather tiny black mole-like tattoos a person gets when they go in for radiation treatment.
As life with metastatic cancer continues, thankfully, so does the need for treatment. While my bones are mostly stable, there is a trouble spot that is creating some dull pain in my hip. Dr Canada thinks we should get on top of it with a single shot of radiation. That means I’ll go in next week, get it radiated, and then be done, minus the after-effects which are not promised to be fun.
Somehow I can handle this idea of radiation, but the tattoos that come with it . . . the visible, always there, never fading tattoos . . . I hate them so much. I hate how much my body is being marked by cancer, and these tiny black spots represent the permanence of so many things.
So, that’s already a loaded emotional trigger. Then add onto that my experience getting the markings.
Today I went in to get my tattoos and have the CT scan of my hips. It was just fucking horrible. The admin assistant shows me to the change room and tells me I need to remove my trousers, though I can keep everything else on. So I do – and then I realize, there are no hospital gown trouser available. So I leave the change room instead draped in gowns back and front like a dress, and walk around trying to find trousers. But there are no damn hospital trousers! The lady is busy with other patients, and I’m just stuck without any pants.
Then a technician come out. He’s tall and later middle aged. ‘Catherine Brunelle’ he calls. So I go and see him. He’s the guy who will be doing my markings.
Fuck. It’s a man. Fine.
I begin to tell him I was looking for trousers but can’t find any. I fail to say: I require hospital-gown pants before going another step . . . instead I listen as he rattles on about next time I can just keep my own pants on, and follow him into the CT room.
We take a seat in the room. I feel pissed off. I know I’m radiating annoyance. I cannot help it. I also feel helpless.
“I’ll give you the tattoos here, here and here.” (he points with each here: hip, belly, hip)
“Where? On my front, or on my back.” I had assumed this tattoo was going to be placed on my back, as it’s my backside that is sore.
“Here, here and here,” he points.
“On my belly?”
“On your front.”
Catherine is not happy about this. She is really not happy.
But, the spot needs to be radiated, and I climb onto the CT scan table – sans trouser.
“Okay, I’ll lift up your gown,” he says.
“No,” I respond. Because the idea of baring my legs and belly with nothing but my knickers on is just too much. Instead I remove the front covering gown and slid it down to cover my thighs and hips. This leaves me mostly covered. Good.
Except then he gently folds down the gown to access my pelvis.
I just swallow the emotions. Get it done, Catherine.
“If you can pull your underwear down a little.”
I pull them down just a little. Still thinking he is going to tattoo my fucking belly. But oh no, it’s not my stomach that is getting the tattoo.
“Okay, a bit more here.”
And he reaches over me and very gently pulls down the underwear so my pubic hairs are all there to see, and the back of the underwear is down off my butt.
And I’m just lying there looking upwards, exposed, and thinking ‘just get through this’.
FYI, he isn’t being grabby, or rude, or anything inappropriate. He is professional. But he is doing things I wasn’t warned to expect by doctors, admin assistants, or the technician himself. And so, no matter how professionally he behaves, I essentially hate him.
He puts tiny metal BBs on me, covers me up, and runs the CT scan. Then he comes back out, uncovers me again, takes off the BBs and gives me the tattoos – one on each hip, and one on the upper crest of my – I don’t know what to call it… above the pubic bone. Pubic hair. Pubic all over the place.
The he steps away, and lets me know I can pull my underwear back up. And I looked down and just saw too much. Started crying right there. Still kind of crying now, for some reason. I was lowered on the table, and shown out of the room – but didn’t take more than two steps before swooping into the open bathroom in the hall, shutting the door, and crying my eyes out.
I’ve had my chest tattooed and I’ve had a rubber mesh pulled over my face to create a mask that would pin me to the radiation table. And that was all upsetting. But this felt violating. I wasn’t ready – and if I had known, I would have asked for a female technician. I should have asked for one when I saw him, but I just didn’t – I didn’t know what was about to happen.
And that fucking sucks.
I have gratitude for what people do, and for their expertise. I have gratitude for the support given without asking anything in return. And I know I complain a lot here, it’s true. But on this blog I can say the feelings that I often fail to express in those critical moments.
I just wish I had known. I could have gotten ready. I could have asked for a women.
But that is done now.
He did nothing wrong, but whatever happened to me emotionally really wasn’t right.
P.S. While writing this post, I realized how uncomfortable I had been. So this morning I called the radiation department and requested a woman work with me when I go in for the actual scan. They were super nice about it – and it’s no problem at all. Thank goodness. Now, if only I could have made that request in the first place…
*this conversation is an approximate of the wording. I didn’t record everything, but it’s the gist.