Western education 2013

Monday, March 10, 2014

..... hard not to be nervous walking back into radiation.....

.... and feeling so anxious.  Max has come with me today.  We have left early as usual to make it for the 3:30 pm appointment.  It is quiet when we arrive.  There are only a few people around near the end of the day which is in stark contrast to the mid-morning rush.  We head downstairs to the Radiation reception which is next to the small Tim Hortons. The competition is an auxilliary cart left behind by the volunteers and parked next to the fish tank. I will not be visiting with the fish tthis afternoon as I turn back to speak to the receptionist about changing some of the appointment times.  She is patient and helpful as she checks the schedule and makes the requested changes.  I explain that it is important to be with my students and she looks up and smiles at me. We are finished and I turn to then be greeted by a Radiation Technologist.  Kelly introduces herself and motions in the direction we will be travelling in.  I turn back to call to Max, who rises from the general waiting room chair he has briefly occupied and follows us into a hallway waiting room outside of the Tomotherapy suite.  

Kelly lets us know that she will be back to pick me up once I am changed.  It will only be a few minutes, but one of the radiologist's walks by with a box of dutch honey cookies that  patient has gifted the department with.  I mention that they are Max's favourite cookies and she turns, reaches into the box and grabs a package with one cookie left in it.  We laugh and smile while she moves on down the hallway.  An orderly passes us and heads to the water fountain.  He spills a little out of the cup as he walks past us again.  We joke that at least it wasn't hot coffee and he replies with a cherubic grin "at least its not beer".  He moves on and is replaced with an angry orderly quick to criticize the exiting one "must be nice to have a break... think I 'll just take one myself".... and stomps away.....

Kelly reappears into a now quiet hallway and guides me into a short angled passage past the operation booth explaining what they will be doing.  The hallway opens into a bright room and there is the Tomotherapy machine.  It doesn't look like the donut shaped machine of the pamphlet.  It has two paddles on either side of the table containing the 3D imaging CT.  Hanging over the head end of the table is a round 8" thick disk which holds the specialized radiation port.  Kelly introduces me to another radiation technologist whose name now escapes me because the thumping in my veins is now drowning her out.  The table is in the eject mode a few feet away from the business end of the machine.  The red stirrups are set up to accomodate my arms at the head end.  This unit incorporates a ridge to guide where my rear will rest.  Surprisingly, it is actually comfortable.despite how hard the table is beneath it.  The arm stirrup holds my arms and the head mount cups my head in a specific position to keep my neck stable for the procedure. The girls lift my gown up to expose the targets tattooed on my chest.  They will pull me around gently using the sheet beneath me so that the targets line up exactly.  They use magic markers to outline where the laser target land.  They will do the rest from the control room to precisely set up the machine using the CT to accurately guide the beam.  I tuck my right arm into my yoga pants to keep it stable and prevent it from sliding off the table.

The technologists leave the room and head off to the control room we passed on our way in.  The machine comes to life and the hum is audible above the coursing blood past my ear drums.  I have to find my happy place and I know I ned to just relax and allow my weignt to fall into the table just as I did when the girls were setting me up.  I look up to see the apeture plates inside the radiation module have changed to replicate the shape the beam will take.  It begins to move to make way for the CT paddles that will pull into position from their wing positions at the sides.  The table jogs mere centimeters until I am in the exact location.  A garbled voice stutters out of the speaker announcing that the radiation will begin.  I am in a technologically advanced suite and you would think they could spring for a better intercom?  The wings retract and make way for the radiation element.  It will pan at an angle to give a 3D dose of high radiation.  I am nervous and I can feel my heart hammering in my chest and the thunderous roar of the blood that it is forcing into every capilliary.  My mind decides it is time to relax and have faith.  Happy thoughts, happy thoughts, happy thoughts..... and the blood pressure drops, deep breathing quiets the coursing blood and I envsion a little garden somewhere in Europe.  Colorful and quaint in a time long ago.... I picture traditional ladies doing the MayPole dance to celebrate the coming of spring..... my happiest moments are spent in the garden.  Earlier in the day I started a new blog and the next chapter in my life's adventure.....

The procedure finishes and the radiologists arrive bringing two new ones...."hello, we are the next team on shift... just another radiologist" the blonde quips and then smiles at me.  They ask me to sit in the chair while they prepare the table for the liver scan. This one is a head form made of what material I cannot say exactly.  There are grooves for holding the arms well above the head and out of the way.  The back of my head is terribly uncomfortable so the girls put a pillow case under my head to buffer my head from the rocky form.  My legs are put into a solid foam form for both procedures making it comfortable to lay down on the hard surface.  This time the radiologist places a module on my tummy.  The cameras suspended from the ceiling are aimed and will monitor my breathing.  The liver, as all organs move when you breathe making it difficult to target without this monitoring.  The radiation will only take place when I exhale and the beam will shut off when I begin to inhale. This targeting takes more time to set up.  The girls will use the side tattoos to line up the radiation machine before heading back to the control room where they will jog the table control to get it into exact location.  A quick look up to the radiation module as it swings slowly out of view confirms that the apeture has changed as the wings close on both sides.  The targeting of the beam takes longer on this procedure.  

The voices walking into the room announce that we are done for today.  I will have radiation every day this week on the neck and every other day on the liver.  Next week it will be both every other day.  There will be two more appointments, one on each friday to meet with a patient review physician... whatever that is??  The Radiologist hands me a blood requisition form and bids me goodbye.  Great, another blood test.  Max stands as I reach his chair.  I take the key out of his extended hand and grab my belongings out of the locker they were stashed in when I first arrived in Tomotherapy.  The reflection in the mirror shows a few marker lines that look like prehistoric daisies.  I smirk and head out with Max to the main floor above us and over to the blood lab beside clinic 4.  Heather is the only blood tech on and I haven't seen her in quite some time!!  Hugs and hello's as we catch up.  She will draw two vials and we talk about gardening.  I give her my blog address and continue to chat until the proceedure is over.  More hugs and its time to head out... we have closed the joint again!!  From start to finish, I have been at the radiation clinic for only 1 hour 15 minutes.

My next appointment is tomorrow morning.  I am looking forward to having lunch with Adrienne and doing some crafting in our comfy livingroom.  Its nice to see the sun out today.

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