Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Radiation Girl and Her Super Scarf

A Day (Monday) in the Life of Radiation Girl....

6:31 a.m. the phone rings. Radiation Girl grumbles "who the hell is calling this early?" Chris, sharper and more awake in the mornings, says "It has to be the radiation place." And he's right. The Machine is down and they are canceling my 9 a.m. appointment. But all is not lost; they re-schedule me to the noon slot. I go back to sleep...kind of. I wake, email to move my lunch plans to 12:30 at Back Street (conveniently located a couple of blocks from radiation place). I shower, examine my head for any new hair growth and contemplate how long until I have something resembling hair rather than fuzz. Then I commence with the dressing ordeal which involves a) selecting a two-piece outfit to facilitate the blue-gown routine, so that starts with finding pants that I can wear with flat shoes to accommodate my neuropath-etic left foot (lingering side effect from chemo), b) selecting top that can be easily taken on and off and won't cling and stick to the aloe vera that will eventually be spread all over my right chest area, c) find flat shoes that will match the selected outfit and that I can still get my foot into, d) find scarf head covering that comes close to matching all the other orthopedic clothing I've now put on, and e) add jewelry and accessories that don't make me look too much like a pirate, a gypsy or a hippie. Then I rest. It's an ordeal. (All that time I save not having to do my hair, is completely used up trying to dress myself in a manner that resembles normal and office-appropriate).

I work (sort of) until 11:45. I show up for radiation promptly at noon and there's a whole lotta blue gowned people in the waiting room, so I don my blue gown and join them. I had plenty of time to inform other blue-gowned hatted ladies that there is an amazing sale at Gottschalks and it includes summer hats--80% off. Radiation Girl knows her audience and the audience is thrilled with the news. But then, Mr. normally-at-9:30 goes in for his turn with The Machine and comes out 5 minutes later and says "The Machine broke again." It stopped working in the middle of his session!!

We Blue Gowns stare at each other in disbelief. The Office Manager explains The Machine is down and we'll all have to wait 30 to 40 minutes but she'll take Blue Gowns in the order we came in that afternoon. I'm pretty sure the Blue Gowns scheduled for 1 to 2pm are not going to be happy. I let the office manager know that I'm going to lunch and won't be back for an hour so if need be others can go before me in line . I went to lunch, others went to Gottschalks.

I order my sandwich at Back Street (turkey on sourdough with butter, mayo and cheese--which I call the "diet plate") and the guy making my sandwich (who is an owner) says "How are you doing?" and I say "with my diet?" before I realize he's said it in "the voice." The tilted head, lowered voice, slightly more intense "How are you doing" that sometimes is accompanied by squinted eyes as well. Ah, the scarf. He realizes I'm a cancer patient. So I say "Oh, I'm doing well. Thank you for asking." He asks if I'm in treatment down the street. I say yes and that in fact I just came from there and I'm going back after lunch because The Machine broke down. Turns out his wife, down the counter at the cash register, is a former radiation therapist and worked at my radiation place. Next thing you know there's a slice of banana cream pie on my tray and I didn't order it. It was "on the house." Very, very kind and very, very tasty. The wife told me that days when The Machine goes down are bad days for the patients and the therapists. So when my lunch was over I asked to buy a whole banana cream pie to take back to the therapists. They gave it to me "on the house" again and told me to tell the therapists hello from them. How nice! Again, this kindness of strangers thing. It's amazing. I may keep wearing the magic scarves that make everyone so kind!

I and the pie were back to radiation at 1:30. Let's just say the waiting room was crowded, there was lots of confusion about what order patients were to go in. They did, wisely, I think, group people by types of treatment--so they wouldn't have to keep rearranging the machine and it's many "accessories." Jane (Ms. 8:45) was already done by the time I got there, but Ms. 9:15 wasn't and had offered to drive Jane home (they live in the same adjoining town) so Jane's friend didn't have to hang out all afternoon. So we all sat around chatting. Radiation BFFs in the making. Basically, it took almost an hour. Lots of time for us all (including Mr. 9:30) to discuss our various treatments and diagnosis and prognosis and again--it's just a comfortable group. (Oh, and I think we'll all be fine. We decided we didn't like the other option.)

By the time I got to back to work, I was a little tired. Not like I was doing much, but all that "yes, no, wait, no, yes, wait, no" and stressing about whether we'd get the radiation or not was kind of tiring. When I got home at 5:30, Chris, Brien and Roryann Clements (and their adorable dog Harold), and Laureen Pittman were all at our dining room table wrapping up the Forgotten Grapes tasting and about to start the "Party Planning" committee meeting. I joined them. Stacey Aldstadt joined us. Becky Whatley joined us. Wine tasting and party planning turned into dinner (Chris whipped up some chicken and steak fajitas), which turned into more wine tasting on the patio where eventually Scott Peterson joined us (no, not that Scott Peterson, that would just be weird...and so wrong). So basically we had a pre-party to plan the Cancer Survivor party.

Eventually though it was midnight--18 hours after Radiation Girl first woke up to the phone ringing from radiation central command. Party over. No time to blog Monday night. A very tired Radiation Girl removed her super scarf, laid it carefully on the dresser to preserve its unique powers, and fell into bed. I made it--19 radiations down. 14 to go.


  1. How very cool to be discovering how kind people can be (however under such awful circumstances) - makes me wish we could all afford to be kinder all the time.

  2. I like that you are keeping your life as normal as possible. It is important to maintain your schedules and habits while in a crisis. I don't know why it is important, but it seems to help. My heart goes out to you every single day. Except when you get a free banana creame pie and slice. Then you don't need my heart as much as I do!

  3. The Bipartisan Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act Needs Your Support!

    Stop "drive through" mastectomies!


  4. Teresa,
    What is wrong with you? Raising a Teenager Girl can't even stay going for 18 hours! Maybe its the scarf! It does have super powers...

  5. I wondered why no blog on Monday. I think I'm going to make that sandwich for lunch it sounds yummy!

  6. God, that pie looks good. That's all I have for now. It just looks really good. *sigh*


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