Since beginning radiation therapy last week, I have made a number of observations, some funny and some serious. In no particular order, here’s what went down while I was being lit up:
- This is a tough crowd. Like most of the other patients, I undergo radiation therapy 5 days/week, and I have been a part of the late afternoon crew. Or rather not a part of it. Because the same people are in the waiting room together day in and day out, a sense of camaraderie develops among the patients. Then, there’s me. I look like the youngest and healthiest person in the waiting room on most days, and despite my efforts to make eye contact, smile, and exchange pleasantries, I was unable to break into the inner circle. I thought I had a shot when they all brought snacks to share with each other one afternoon, a sort of waiting room potluck, but no such luck. I just grabbed the complimentary graham crackers, which are the highlight of every visit, and sat in my regular spot near the reception desk. At least the staff seem to like me, and I am hoping that I am more popular among the morning group, as I permanently move to that group next week. Fingers crossed, because I am friendly damn it!
- I feel on the verge of tears a lot. I don’t know what it is, but for the past week, I have felt an immense sense of sadness and underlying anxiety weighing me down. It hits me the hardest upon waking and before I fall asleep, and during the in between hours, I feel both the anxiety and depression waiting to darken my thoughts and dampen my spirit. Sometimes, they succeed, which frustrates me to no end. I don’t know what’s triggering these feelings-being in this stupid club, the radiation, the Tamoxifen, thoughts of my bad ass friends who are fighting cancer, watching my scars becoming more pronounced, feeling stressed out from working full-time, doing treatment, being a mom, and keeping up with all of my usual responsibilities, all of the above, none of the above, or a combination of these. Take your pick, but I just want peace of mind and body. Serenity now!
- The fatigue is real. I am both a night owl and an early bird, which means I usually sleep 4-5 hours/night. This has been my sleep pattern since college, but leave it to radiation to change all of that. I am now getting 6-7 hours of sleep during the week, and I still am feeling fatigued. I know that this, too, shall pass, but I miss my inner night owl.
- I feel uncomfortably vulnerable. There is a moment of loneliness and sorrow that washes over me as soon as the radiation team leaves the room so that my treatment can begin. After being precisely positioned, I am left flat on my back on the table, with my left arm stretched out over my head, leaving the left side of my chest and torso exposed. Sometimes, there is soft music that I can hear above the whirring and buzzing of the machine, but usually, the chatter in my head is so loud that I cannot hear much of anything at all. The sense of vulnerability is intense, and I always welcome the return of the radiation team, so, I no longer feel isolated and alone.
- Turn the heat up. So far, the worst part about radiation, well, aside from the actual radiation itself, is how cold the treatment room is. I am assuming that there is some very practical reason for this, but it still is uncomfortably cold, even with the requisite blanket.
- Being a bad ass is not always easy, but it is never optional. Enough said.
That’s another story . . .
Categories: That's Another Story