Half of the first series of radiation treatments is completed! I have been going to the radiotherapy center every afternoon for the past 11 working days.
The first few days I was amazed and felt a bit lost in that special room full of technological highlights. Although the time in the afternoon and the team of healthcare providers varies every day, the actions invariably follow the same pattern. As soon as my name is called, I am invited to step into a small room containing a chair, clothes hooks, a mirror and another door. I get rid of some clothes, wrap my shawl around my shoulders and wait in front of the second door. As soon as it opens, a healthcare provider takes me past the control room, down a corridor to a spacious room where a second caregiver is already waiting for me next to the impressive radiation machine. The treatment table is adjusted to my body measurements. I climb on it. A foam block fits just below my knees and my head is in a foam holder. I stretch my arms above my head and place them in the holders positioned for me.
My date of birth is checked and a rod is fitted just above my ribcage. First the breath test is started: two short breaths in and out and then one deeper and longer breath to make sure that I can touch and feel the rod while holding my breath.
The irradiation is most effective at about 1.5 cm depth. That works out well on my sternum, but the radiation has to have effect on my skin at the site of the amputation. A mat the size of an A4 and little over 1 cm thick is therefore taken from the tray with my name sticker on it and placed on my skin. One of the healthcare providers reads aloud the position indications from my file and together they carefully determine where the mat should be placed based on those indications and the tattoo dots in my skin.
They withdraw, test from the control room whether I can hear them properly over the intercom and start the program. ‘Breathe in, breathe out …. breathe in, breathe out …. breathe in DEEPLY and hold on’ I hear over the intercom and I dutifully follow the voice of one of the two healthcare providers. I lie as still as possible and the arms of the device slowly rotate around me. The first round is to make a CT scan, because this device can do that too. This scan checks whether the calculated radiation plan can be carried out: Am I positioned well again and has my body remained unchanged since the previous session. “And breathe out again.” This is followed by the six radiation treatments where each time I am asked to hold my breath.
I don’t feel the radiation which makes it seem like we are all actors in a strange scene. A scene which we rehearse every working day. In the meantime, however, I see that two new patterns have emerged: circles are beginning to emerge under my eyes and a tanned surface on my skin. The latter exactly on the spot and the size of the mat.