Yesterday I had the first of five radiation treatments for my cancer.
A bit over a week ago, I lay down in what I gathered was basically a CAT scanner. I was lying on a couple of bags that they filled with, I guess, some kind of fluid that hardened, forming a kind of half cocoon which would keep me immobile during the treatments. They then did a scan to generate data that would be used to program the machine that would actually administer the radiation (something like an industrial robot capable of precise movements). Thursday was a “dry run” to make sure that the machine would perform as expected; then yesterday was the first actual treatment.
You don’t feel the radiation. The radiologist explained to me that the beam would have about the same power as a dental X-ray, but would take longer to administer the required dose. You just lie there relaxed and unmoving, except for normal breathing, for the fifteen or so minutes that it takes.
To mitigate the boredom, I mentally recited the lyrics to Gordon Lightfoot’s “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”; and just as I was starting on “The Balad of the Yarmouth Castle”, they were done. I made it home in plenty of time to catch DW News on the PBS World Channel. 😎
I’ll have four more treatments, Monday through Thursday; then I’ll start chemo on the 6th.
The radiation machine (I should probably ask what the correct term for it is) was interesting. The radiation is generated by a roughly disk shaped thing with about an eighteen inch diameter, maybe a bit more, that looked something like this [from Wikipedia] although the rest of the machine was quite different. Opposite that is a flat thing that, I guess, notes where the other side of the beam is to provide feedback for proper aiming. The whole thing rotates around you, presumably to zap the cancer from different angles so that they don’t kill the tissues that you want to still be hanging around. 😎
Inside the disk were pairs of pointy things that were about 1mm or so apart. I had guessed, probably incorrectly, that the “antenna” is actually the space between the points. There were maybe ten or fifteen pairs, all in slightly different positions so that they would be slightly out of phase with each other, giving more precise control over the directionality of the beam. This whole paragraph could be way off the mark, though, if the radiation’s wavelength is in the millimicron range, which is what I get from the Wikipedia article. I’ll have to ask for a more detailed explanation of what’s going on next Monday, not because I have any desire to practice medicine without a license 😎 , but because I’m a geek who’d find it interesting.