The Woman in the Mauve Mask

by Janie Jones

Hello blogosphere.

I have survived my first week of radiation treatment.  So far, things have gone very smoothly, and I have nothing to complain about.  Okay, so that’s not really true.  I’ve been doing a fair amount of complaining about what a drag it is to drive 3+ hours a day for 20-30 minutes of actual time at the radiation therapy clinic.  And, I’ve been complaining about the cost of these trips.  Gasoline prices have been costing me about $30 each trip.  Then of course, once we’re in the Big City we have to get something to eat….

That said, I am mindful of the fact that overall, I’m pretty lucky things aren’t more serious.  I’m keeping a good PMA (positively moronic attitude) about the whole thing.  Lots of people have been sending their well wishes and worrying about me, so I feel I don’t have to worry about myself.  Seriously.  It is a huge relief to let others do the worrying.  Although, I wish poor Leif wouldn’t worry quite so much.  He didn’t sleep at all the night before my first treatment, the dear.

So, what is it like, Janie?  Inquiring minds may well want to know.

Well, it’s like this.

I lay on a table.  I get bolted to the table with a mask.  The mask was molded to the contours of my face to be a perfect fit.  The staff wrap me up in a nice warm blankey, cause it’s darn cold in that radiation room.  Then I just lay there.  They take two x-ray pictures of me noggin, then I get five doses of radiation from different angles.  In between each dose the machine and the table move to align my noodle to the appropriate position to get the desired angle.  They tried to explain how it works, but there were schematics and MRI images with triangles, and dotted lines and various notations of scientific nomenclature that are way beyond my ken.  When they “shoot” the radiation, it causes me to see a blueish violet white light that doesn’t really exist; I’m told it’s the radiation being detected by my optic nerve.  I also sometimes smell an ozoney-twangy smell when the radiation is shot from certain angles.  I wonder if it’s the radiation tickling my olfactory sensing portion of the brain.  Just my guess though.  It doesn’t hurt, but it is a real b*tch when you get an itch and you know you can’t move to scratch it.  And then it’s done.  I get to go home looking like I just got a splotchy sun tan and am left with wild tangly hair.

So, we’ve got 7 treatments done, 21 to go.

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11 Responses to “The Woman in the Mauve Mask”

  1. Thanks Janie, for telling us the reality of it all. Our local centre has rooms for folk on daily radiation so there’s less travelling involved. But then you wouldn’t get to show off your splotchy tan 😉
    Keep well x

  2. Holy crap (no pun intended)! If I had to do this, I’d need constant sedation, all that claustrophobia stuff. If they’re going to have you there like that, they need a TV on the ceiling.

    • The mask fits so snugly it’s hard to open your eyes and when I do open them to take a peek the holes in the mask block a clear view, so TV wouldn’t really be very worthwhile. Even if they did have TV, knowing my luck I’d get stuck having Jerry Springer on or something equally as banal. Instead they at least play music so us captive radiationees have something to think about besides getting nuked. And, any way, luckily I’m not claustrophobic and I’m generally only strapped in about 10-15 minutes. If it was a little longer I might be able to catch a catnap.

  3. My thoughts are with ya, girl. Kick it’s ass.

  4. Hi, Janie. I wish you all the best. I am just about to start school as a radiation therapist. I decided to go in to it because I lost my career to an illness, and I thought it might give me an extra measure of compassion. I’ve also always been interested in medical stuff. Any way, any suggestion for what a radiation therapist can do to make the experience the least miserable possible? I’d love to hear of anything that’s happened that was really good or bad. Again. my prayers are with you.

    • Katy, Thanks for visiting, and for your note. I’ve been very lucky in that although I go for treatments in the “Big City” it’s still a rather small town, so I have gotten to know everyone at the clinic and many of the other patients. Everyone is very friendly and the therapists there always seem happy to be at work and glad to see the patients. I’d say the best thing you can do is the same reason you’ve chosen this field, be compassionate. I imagine it can get hard with cranky patients, but they are likely the ones who need all the more love and kindness. And, a warm blanket is always welcome. Good luck in your studies! Janie

  5. Thank you Janie. I can definitely relate to the cranky patients being the ones needed the most love and kindness. I spent 6 weeks in an ICU after becoming severely immunocompromised from a medication and them getting pneumonia and septic shock.When I woke up after a month long drug induced coma I suffered what is known as ICU psychosis. I was extremely paranoid-I thought the doctors and nurses were torturing me(well, the kinda were) and trying to kill me and I also thought that my children had been killed in a car accident(that’s why I thought I was in the hospital). To top it all off, I thought my husband was having affairs with the nurses. Clearly, I was TOTALLY off my rocker. Apparently it is a fairly common experience in the ICU after prolonged medical coma. I was confused, terrified, and felt completely isolated. However, the medical staff had to deal with my ranting, jealousy, and paranoia. The amazing thing is how kind, caring and compassionately they treated me. When I became oriented again, I was horribly embarrassed about the way I had treated every body, but they made sure that I understood that it wasn’t my fault. I went back to visit my ICU nurses everytime I was at Baptist Hospital for years.
    I am glad that you have nice therapists and I will not forget the warm blanket!


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