Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Radiation Planning Appointment

I am sure my heart skipped a beat when the husband said the word, "cannula" this morning. While I knew that a CT scan meant that I would have a needle, I actually forgot that it involved a cannula! Last time I had this test, I had to sit and wait for around fifteen minutes with a needle hanging out my arm. And, I just couldn't help but stare at it. Of course, you know the story of the panic attack.

On the way to the hospital, I didn't want to talk. I was real nervous! Anyway, it wasn't long before I was called in for the first part of my planning appointment. The young, male radiation therapist was so kind. He introduced me to another therapist, female, who was amazingly reassuring! I couldn't have asked for a better a pair. Relief washed over me, when I was told that only my chest was going to get pictures; that meant no needle, no cannula! My day just improved 100%.

My familiarity with having to show my breasts to strangers had left weeks ago. Since undergoing chemo it was no longer necessary to have my breasts examined or my scars checked. So, with blushing cheeks (hidden behind my brown skin), I had to lie topless on a table that was millimetres away from the CT machine. The therapists then drew lines, dashes and dots on my right breast. They were creating a map so that they would know at which angle the radiation was to direct its powerful burn to the cancer cells (if there were any left after they had been poisoned by the chemo). I was most surprised when they used rulers to measure (I thought they may have been beneath the medical profession). They also took photos from all angles (with a camera that you or I may have). Blue tac was placed at strategic points (this is the only material that will actually show up on the CT pictures). It was rather strange to have all this action occurring on me. Finally, I was given four tattoos. Each the size of a freckle. In order for the radiation to be within millimetres for each blast, the table I was lying on was also measured so that I would lie in the same position for each of my thirty radiation appointments.

I wanted desperately to see what my breast looked like with all the markings, but I was also still quite embarrassed of my state. I figured that if I didn't look down, then it was like I wasn't actually topless. Yes, I was fully clothed. That's what I told myself. I don't think it really helped.

I tried to relax, with arms above my head, when the whirring of the machine indicated it was warming up. Soon the table (or was it the machine?) was moving. The CT scan was over so quickly. I dressed and left the room, so glad that I didn't have a puncture wound to show for it.

I wasn't waiting long before a lady introduced herself and then ushered me to a small room. There, she explained the process that I would follow for my radiation treatment. I was given a phone number should I experience any difficulties and my first supply (of many) of aqueous cream. I was to apply the cream three times between treatments to prevent the burns from becoming nasty. Of course, the information was overwhelming.

I was able to have a breather in the waiting room, before a second woman called me into anther small room. We discussed parking arrangements and babysitting. I was given a small book for appointment dates. My first radiation appointment was already there, August 22 at 3pm. Closer to the date, I would be given a code that would allow me to access a close carpark with a $2 fee.

An hour and a half later, I was leaving the building. On the way out, I met a friend who is in their last week of their radiation treatment. With my head spinning from all the information, it was great to speak with someone who was on the other end.

All in all, a very big, tiring day.

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