Radiation & Me … Not So Much
Posted January 28, 2010on:
I had a bigger dose of irony Wednesday than I had radiation.
A friend of mine sent me an article over the weekend that was in the New York Times. It warned about the dangers of radiation if something goes very wrong.
“So, anyway, here is a truly gruesome article about what can go wrong during radiation, and what can I say but that I’m sorry I feel the need to send it to you AT ALL…but maybe mentioning it to your techs will be a bonding experience…???” my friend wrote.
She went on to say that she considers herself to be a PIA – Pain in the Ass Patient – “patient from hell with pride.”
“Unless I’m in an extremely exhausted, compromised, desperate, rather-be-dead state of being (which has happened a few times), I interrogate the hell outta any person who will touch me with their own hands or with machines…and I require the full layperson’s 101 of what, why, how and when…,” she wrote.
I firmly believe she sent the article because she was concerned about me. It was not to frighten me but to make sure I asked the right questions.
The article, as my friend suggested, was pretty gruesome. It focused on two patients in New York who had been given fatal overdoses of radiation and they were not nice ways to die. The reporters also reviewed records of radiation errors in New York.
I spent three days trying to figure out what I would do with this information. Should I tell them to “be careful?” Or should I say, “Please aim well.”
Knowing that radiation is something that I really need, I tried to stuff down my worries.
I brought the article with me to my first radiation session today. The radiation therapist who brought me to the changing room asked if she could show it to the physicist.
He talked to me about the article, procedures they used and the safeguards built into the linear accelerator, the machine that delivers the radiation. Each patient’s radiation plan is reviewed by three specialists to ensure it is correct.
The linear accelerator will not work if there is anything wrong at all. All procedures and the linear accelerator itself is the same as that used at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, which has very high quality control standards.
So there I was on the table Wednesday with my arms up over my head, fitting into the form created for me at last week’s simulation. Bands are on my ankles to make sure I don’t move.
Two therapists adjust my body – I’m not supposed to help – so it is in the exact position for the plan created for me. X-rays are taken for further confirmation.
And it’s time to begin.
There is a buzzing sound for a minute or two and then it stops.
I either broke the machine or the physicist was providing proof to me that the linear accelerator will not operate if there is anything wrong. The machine had indeed locked itself out.
The therapist told me that I could sit up, but noted that I was up pretty high so I should not try to get down. Even the motor that lowers and raises the table was stopped.
It was not as high as the laboratory table in the movie Young Frankenstein, but I certainly didn’t want to be a jumper. After all, life is worth living.
It’s pretty obvious that I’m not still up in the air as I write this. The table was lowered and I am home.
In an editorial in Wednesday’s New York Times said, “Manufacturers need to develop software that will shut down the linear accelerators before they can deliver extreme amounts of radiation.”
I can testify that safeguard is built into this system.
So Thursday – if the machine is working again – I’ll have the other portions of my first treatment that I did not get today.
Radiation? Not so much Wednesday.
But I’ve had one-fourth of one of my 33 treatments. That would be 1/132nds of radiation done.
Now that’s progress.