Saying Goodbye, Hopefully Forever, to Radiation Treatments

I’ve officially had my last radiation treatment. Time has passed quickly and it’s kind of hard to believe that it’s over. Sam went with me and I made sure to bring 7 more cds I’d chosen to add to their music collection. When I was going through possible music choices, I came across the Dixie Chicks – Taking the Long Way and felt like maybe that should be my last session music instead of Lucinda. I came to a compromise and listened to Lucinda on the way there and then the Dixie Chicks while in treatment. It guaranteed that I was surrounded by the sounds of women I admire, and my wife, which was comforting.

The song Easy Silence has always reminds me of my relationship with Sam and the comfort, love, and joy we share together. She always tries to relieve my worries and make sure I have whatever I need to be happy. We can simply hold hands and be in each others company and not need anything else. I found myself lying on the gurney today, holding her hand, and listening to the very song that defines that feeling. It was a happy moment.

I’m going to say goodbye to radiation with a fitting tribute to the process. Some of it may make you uncomfortable, but I figure my goal is to be honest and to share my experiences with others in order to remove some of the mystery and fear around cancer treatment. In order to do that, I’ve decided to feature a photo essay from Sam’s perspective. These were taken over my last two sessions and I think they capture what happens and the kind and caring folks who took care of me.

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Waiting to go back for the ct scan. That’s the first thing they do before every treatment session, so they can look at everything and get accurate measurements.

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The tube that they feed the radioactive source through, using a long cord. It gets inserted into the vagina.

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The tube locks into this piece that is secured to the table, to keep the tube from moving.

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Trying to get on the table gracefully.

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The doctor inserts the tube. It also helps to protect the areas they don’t want to fully radiate.

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Chatting about I don’t even remember what, as the doctor gets everything locked into place.

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Ready for my ct scan.

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A lovely photo of my bald melon.

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Sam got to stay in the room with my doctor and the ct tech during my scan.

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Me, being scanned.

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What the ct scans look like on the computer.

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Sam’s view as they transfer me onto the gurney.

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I was then wheeled into the radiation room and had to wait for the physicist to calculate my data and map out everything. It took maybe 20-30 minutes.

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Patiently waiting.

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Each time the physicist came into the room he had this piece of paper in his hand and asked my name and birth date in order to verify that they had the right person. This is my official radiation mugshot.

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Sam and I holding hands while we wait.

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A photo of Sam and I, taken by one of the super friendly radiation team members.

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This is R2-D2, who controls the radiation treatment after everyone else has left the room.

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Connected to R2-D2 and ready to roll.

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While I am inside of this room, everyone else is outside, waiting or monitoring me.

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After the treatment was over, mine were 12-13 minutes each time,  everything was safely removed by the doctor and the nuclear physicist.

This is the area out side of the radiation treatment rooms. You get to ring the bell after your last treatment.

This is the area out side of the radiation treatment rooms. You get to ring the bell after your last treatment.

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Me, playing around with the Geiger-counter and my freshly radiated vagina. We all had a laugh over this.

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Sitting with Steve, the physicist, as he goes over the ct scans and all of the technical information with me. I asked him if I could have a print out of the calculations he did for my last treatment and he went even further and explained it all to me. Awesomeness.

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Here you can see the three views taken during the ct scan.

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My numbers and percentages of radiation received in the area treated.

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Me, happy to be finished and ready to be released back into the wild. I wore this shirt promoting my friend’s barbershop for moral support.

I have to thank everyone who had a hand in treating me. I have to give a special shout out to Steve and Andrew, the physicists who took time out after my last treatment to show me, and describe to me in detail, exactly how they use a ct scan to calculate where the radiation “source” should be placed and how long it should be at each location. Steve showed me that I had 11 points along my vagina where the “source” moved to radiate the tissue. He also showed me the three views of my pelvic area that were captured via ct scan. It was pretty darned cool. The four of us also spent some extra time nerding out about nuclear energy, radioactive waste, Chernobyl, Hanford, and so on. I explained to the guys that I have a fascination with such things, since I was in high school during the Cold War era and have created some artwork relating to the subject. It was awesome. I mean, how often do you get to hang out with nuclear physicists and talk about such things in detail?

Lastly, I want to say that it was fitting that the first song I heard during my last session, while waiting on the gurney, was this one. Part of my accepting and working through all of this is believing that having cancer is just another step in my “taking the long way”. It’s a learning experience and most of all, a growth experience. I’m going to leave you with this. Feel free to sing along.

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