Radiation Therapy Sounds
I tried to pay close attention to the sounds from my radiation therapy experience today. Sounds that we all take for granted, but lend themselves to our overall experience. While I’m actually in the radiation theater, there is a distinct white noise that permeates the room. The behemoth radiation machine that reminds me of a steely cold Mr. Snuffleupagus groans when the technicians manipulate its rotating arm that pivots to the left and right of me, supine on a plank-like table in the middle of the room. The machine also emits clicking noises similar to an eye exam machine. The Tube Map (which they taped over every few inches) on my chest is coming off in scales so they periodically have to redraw the map. The permanent markers give off a distinctive scent as they retraced the lines, using my new tattoos to guide them.
Cancer: You are HERE
Getting radiation therapy at the hospital every week day has become a strange routine. I shuffle into the bustling hospital along with other patients and those with them. They all have varied looks on their faces: fatigue, resignation, boredom, anxiety, blankness, pain. We exit in the same fashion. It feels like being inside a big white walled machine. I may or may not notice whether I’m trying to rush past a person in a wheel chair whose limbs are gone to make my way hurriedly to the separate bank of fancy Cancer Elevators. I flash my cancer patient I.D. card in front of the scanner when I arrive in the radiation area. The receptionist automatically hands me a parking card. I walk to the locker room and get undressed, and am usually called to come back immediately. There is little time for much interaction with fellow patients but we all smile at each other. On my way out today, there were about twenty-five folks in the outer waiting area, which is to say that it was busy. My eye caught a glimpse of a nurse applying lotion to an elderly man’s eye and face. He was dramatically blistered where she applied ointment. Brain cancer? Skin cancer? I winced just to look at him. So many of the patients don’t have overt signs of cancer that it is easy to forget that’s why you are all here.