Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Tag: cancer treatment (page 1 of 2)

Visit with the Substitute Oncologist

This entry is part 43 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

Well, I think I described the scheduling issues that happened before I finally got last Friday’s Oncology appointment scheduled. All this is because my regular Oncologist, Dr. Colonna, is out on maternity leave.

This past Friday, I arrived early like usual and got checked in and my vitals done like usual. They didn’t need blood taken or anything, so I didn’t need to visit the lab.

I was drowsy because I hadn’t slept well the night before, due to worrying about being up in time for the appointment, because it was at 11:00AM, a time I don’t usually go in for appointments. I’d gotten myself a caffeinated beverage at the coffee shop near the elevators I took to the floor where Oncology is, and I drank that while I waited, dozing between swallows. It helped; I was more alert and felt refreshed when I was finally visited.

That visitor was a Physician’s Assistant who works with the Oncology docs, Nancy Fong. The designation after her name is PA-C, and I’m left to assume the C stands for cancer given she’s working in the Oncology department. I’ll try to remember to ask her what it stands for if I see her again. Anyway, she did a breast exam and we discussed my vitamin regimen; I’d been taking 1 Calcium and 1 D3 vitamin a day with my meds and the Senior vitamins I started taking this month, but she wanted me to up the Calcium and D3 t0 2 pills a day, which I’m happy to obey. I don’t want my bones to deteriorate either.

After she finished with me, she left to go fetch the substitute Oncologist I was to see, Dr. Charles Parker. I was not expecting the doctor who came in. Not because he had an unusual appearance; he was tall, slender, wore glasses, and white-haired, so pretty normal that way. No, he couldn’t seem to say a single sentence without two or three umm pauses. Between that and his soft voice, I had difficulty following what he was saying.

Essentially, however, I no longer need the Leuprolide injection since I’ve had my ovaries and tubes removed. I’m still on the Anastrozole because there are some other organs which create a teeny-tiny amount of female hormones, and there’s concern my fat might also produce some. The Anastrozole is to prevent it creating another cancer.

He couldn’t speak on the possibility of having my breasts removed because he’s not my primary Oncologist, so I didn’t bother asking about that. It’s something I think Nancy may have known about, but I didn’t want to confuse Dr. Parker.

After Dr. Parker’s visit, I spoke briefly with Nancy again. She filled out a form that tells me when my next appointment is due (September) and wrote notes regarding the additional vitamins I’m to take and continuation of Anastrozole. They’re also going to arrange for me to get my next mammogram at about that time as well—and I asked about that, since I wasn’t sure if my primary care doc would have to put the order in, but Nancy explained it would be the Oncology department.

Hysterectomy Consult

This entry is part 40 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

On the 2nd of March I had my appointment with Dr. Rose. From what I understand—I could be wrong about this—she’s the one who performs hysterectomy surgeries for the VA Women’s Clinic. That’s why I saw her yesterday; this was my initial consult regarding me getting a hysterectomy of some sort as part of my ongoing cancer care.

The Women’s Clinic was redesigned a few years ago. Now when a patient arrives, there’s a little organized children’s play area to the right, surrounded in part by waiting chairs. We’re to check in at an electronic kiosk, and I was invited to do so upon my arrival about an hour before my appointment yesterday. I did explain I was so early because I was on transit and like to start early in case there’s some sort of delay, but the receptionist insisted I check in with a promise to explain things to Dr. Rose. So I checked in and sat down next to a table covered in women’s health care information; most of it seemed to regard heart disease.

For most of the next forty-five minutes, I read a book I checked out from the library. Just before a nurse came to call me back, I put the book away and tried to start up my Nook, but discovered it wouldn’t operate because power was too low, so I put it back. LOL Right after I got done putting my Nook back in my satchel, the nurse came out to fetch me.

We went to the far end of the main hall of the women’s clinic section and into a room there. Vitals were taken, and the nurse left me with assurances Dr. Rose would join me as soon as she was finished with her other patient. My mind suitably encouraged by the book I’d been reading, I thought on one of my own stories for the duration so I wouldn’t be too distracted when the doctor arrived.

I hadn’t long to wait. Maybe fifteen minutes later, Dr. Rose showed up. We shook hands, and she sat at the computer to access my files. For the next twenty mintues, we went over my medical history—the cancer, the medications I’m on and why, everything. Including my gender dysphoria. I was completely honest with her, explaining that though I’d probably not have any chance at all of getting the surgeries I need for my transition any other way, I was far more concerned with my cancer coming back.

She seemed to agree with my concerns about the cancer, and didn’t try to contradict me. We went over my current medication regimen for cancer care, and she agreed with my oncologist’s assessment that my lack of dramatic emotional reaction to being on the hormone suppressants was a good indication I’d deal with having a hysterectomy well.

Then she said I’d get a partial hysterectomy—my ovaries and fallopian tubes would be removed. I asked why, when I certainly wouldn’t be using my uterus after that—and wasn’t it another cancer risk to leave my uterus behind? Dr. Rose patiently explained to me that since I hadn’t shown to have either of the known breast cancer genes, taking out my ovaries would most likely prevent any sort of uterine cancer. She went on to tell me that the partial hysterectomy surgery was much less invasive; it’ll be done through small incisions on either side of my abdomen and in my navel. According to her, to take out my uterus as well would likely require at least one large incision that would require more recovery time and be much more uncomfortable for me when taking out my ovaries would do the job just as well.

Dr. Rose went over a general itinerary for my surgery as well, explaining that they have one day of surgeries for hysterectomies a month, but that April’s was canceled. Basically, I’m to fast the morning of the surgery like I did for my lumpectomy, I expect to have to shower with specially-provided soap, and I’ll likely be going into surgery sometime in the morning. I’ll also have to stay overnight for observation due to my CPAP machine, so they can ensure I don’t suffocate to death due to the surgical sedatives; I can’t say I’m disappointed about this and will make sure I have plenty of material to read while I’m stuck in a bed at the hospital until checkout.

My partial hysterectomy is scheduled for May 5th. I’m to go in on April 27th for another consult and to have blood tests and everything done. Dr. Rose told me if I had any questions about things to go ahead and give her a call. On the way out of the clinic, Dr. Rose led me to a wall of pamphlets and passed me ones on Preparing for Surgery and Laparoscopy. I grabbed an additional one, about Hysterectomy. Still haven’t read them, will probably get to them later on this month.

Oncology Check-In

This entry is part 38 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

This past Friday, I had another Oncology visit. This time, instead of getting my Neulasta injection after the appointment with my Oncologist, I picked it up prior to the appointment. This is so I wouldn’t be stuck waiting at the hospital to have it injected; a nurse has to do it, and the medication is refrigerated to keep it fresh because it is a powder-gel combination so it works over a long period of time. There are three-month and six-month doses, and I have the three-month dose.

Nothing’s changed with regards to my medication regimen. My doc said what I’m on now is better than the Tamoxifen, though I forgot to ask precisely how. Before my appointment with her, I went for blood draw, for tests for both her and my primary care doc, but the hormone results take 24-48 hours to return. I think the VA either has to send the tests out to another lab, or it just might be because something about the test requires more time. Next time I go to the lab and see I’m getting a hormone test done, I’ll ask the process it goes through and why it takes so long.

I may contact my Oncologist tomorrow to see if she’s had the results in, and if I do, I’ll try to remember to update this post with the news.

One thing my Oncologist did say was that if this medication regimen isn’t suppressing my hormones adequately, we may have to look into surgery to remove my ovaries. I’m sort of half-hoping it has to be done, and half-hoping it doesn’t, and the latter is because it won’t be a full hysterectomy, and I don’t really fancy going in for the remainder of the procedure at a later date. Still, if it’s required, I’ll do it. The last thing I want is to put myself at risk for more cancer.


During my Oncology visit, I also received a breast exam, which I’m apparently to have done every six months now. I wanted to mention this in particular because I learned a couple things which are troubling to me. One thing, which I’ve noticed in my breast self-exams, is that it’s impossible to press deep enough to the front of my chest wall. This is desirable because it enables the examiner, whether it be the woman herself or her physician, to feel through the entire breast. The main issue preventing this complete examination is the density of my breasts, which my doc places at a level of three or four on a scale docs apparently use to indicate difficulty/ease of breast examination.

When I asked if this was bad, she said that breast density—the denser the breast is—was an indication of the propensity of cancer (higher density = higher likelihood of breast cancer). My Oncologist went on to add that right now, there are no decided recommendations on how else to examine breasts. What I got from her explanation is that though there are possible other methods, besides mammograms (which she noted may not work as well because of my breasts’ density), which may work for discovering breast tumors, there’s a great deal of uncertainty about whether or not they’re actually even as helpful as a mammogram, never mind any more helpful.


My Estrodiol is apparently suppressed to a level which pleases my Oncologist, so it looks like my current medication regimen is working. Yay.

Cancer Anniversary

This entry is part 37 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

August 6th marked the first anniversary of my discovery of the cancerous tumor I underwent treatment for this past year. Not surprisingly, I remember the discovery of the lump down to the half hour: between one and one thirty in the morning while I was in bed.

I have mixed feelings on the past year. To be honest, after I learned it was cancer, I was kind of meh. Shocked. Throughout most of my treatment, to be honest. I just did what I needed to. Not sure exactly where on the “Oh, no, it’s cancer!” spectrum I am now. Parts of it seem a little surreal now when I think about them. Other things I remember with sharp clarity.

Today after my shower, I looked at my scars. The one under my arm is a nice healthy color, just a bit pink, and well-healed. I was worried about it for a while. It didn’t seem to heal completely until after the radiation treatments and had a bruised/purplish look to it until a couple months ago. I didn’t start putting my antiperspirant on my right underarm until May because I was afraid it would somehow affect the scar. I experience no pain from this scar now, though occasionally I’ll have phantom sensations in the numb area beneath my arm, and I have to be careful when I shave so I don’t cause abrasions since I can’t tell if I’m giving myself razor burn, never mind an injury.

My breast scar has been in good condition for about six months or so. It healed up very well, I think because air wasn’t restricted from it. It’s very faintly pink/purplish, and I can’t feel scar tissue beneath it any more, which is probably an indication that the stitches there have been absorbed. This scar has no pain either, and my right nipple seems to have recovered, though the areola is light brown instead of the same rosy pink as the nipple and areola on my left breast.

The portacath scar is the best looking of the lot. It’s visible when I wear my tank tops for square dancing and isn’t even vaguely pinkish any more. Aside from a little pockmark-like spot at one end, it’s almost completely gone. I’m no longer afraid of the weight of my right breast pulling this scar open, and I was really afraid of that for a few months.

A portion of my right upper arm is still numb from the nerve cut the doctor made to reach my lymph nodes in the surgery to remove the cancer. I’m not getting as many phantom sensations from the location as I used to. Every so often, I’ll itch around the edges of the numb area, but in a spot where scratching actually gets rid of the annoyance.

My hair has all grown back. It’s about 1-2 inches long now and curlier than it was before, though this is evident only after a fresh washing. Day after wash, it’s unruly and won’t do what I want it to, so I’ve resigned myself to near-constant bad hair days. LOL

Oncology Checkup

This entry is part 36 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

Last Friday, I had an Oncology checkup. This is part of routine post-cancer care for breast cancer. I believe I mentioned here previously my Oncologist called to briefly discuss the possibility of putting me on Tamoxifen instead. Well, this visit was sort of a follow-up on that call.

Like usual, I first saw an intern who was working with my doc. She and I went over the past few months regarding my experiences with the medication regimen I’d been originally placed on, and I mentioned to her my hands had begun intermittently itching. She checked my heart and listened to my lungs, ensured I didn’t have edema in the legs, and went to give her report to my Oncologist. I remember her first name was Amy (’cause it’s very familiar to me), but not her last name.

When she returned, she had my Oncologist, Dr. Colonna with her. My lungs and heart were checked again, then Dr. Colonna sat and we got into the main topic of my visit: what medications would be best for my post-cancer care.

We once again went over the benefits and side effects of Tamoxifen and my Anastrazole-Leuprolide regimen. My main concern with the Tamoxifen is the possible stroke side effect. I know thousands of women have been on Tamoxifen for years without such a side effect, but it’s a main worry for me. I’m concerned about the osteoporosis which the Anastrazole-Leuprolide regimen can cause, but not as much as I am about the stroke issue.

Dr. Colonna wasn’t strongly determined I should switch to the Tamoxifen, and she listened to my concerns about the side effects issues, then suggested I remain on my current regimen for about five years and possibly stop all hormone suppressants. I disliked that idea, mainly because I know that at 45, my body will still be producing hormones; my mother’s menopause didn’t end until she was in her fifties, and I told Dr. Colonna I was expecting my natural menopause to last that long—so I thought I should be on some sort of hormone suppressant therapy until at least my fifties.

She agreed with this, and we eventually worked out I’d remain on the Anastrazole-Leuprolide therapy for five years, then I’d switch to Tamoxifen. I’m to go in annually for DEXA scans of my bones to ensure I’m not losing too much density in them. I suspect if I do, I’ll be switched to the Tamoxifen sooner, but Dr. Colonna said my initial scan showed I had excellent bone density, so she felt confident I could remain on my current regimen for at least five years.

I told her about the itching in my hands, how it’s intermittent, and she explained it may have something to do with the early menopause my body is going through. So, it’s hormones and nothing can be done about it. LOL It’s not that bothersome, so I was just glad to have an answer for why it started up.

I also told Dr. Colonna I’m trans. I probably should have long ago, but I didn’t want Mom present to try to downplay it. It is important for all my caregivers to know, even if I’m not going to be able to do much—if anything—toward transitioning anytime soon.

While I was up at the VA (actually, during the waiting period for my medication refills, including the Leuprolide injection which needs to be administered by a nurse), I made an appointment with my primary care doc to have a regular checkup. My last one was a female exam, and I need to tell Dr. Milne (pron. mil-nee) I’m trans and what my projected plans are. Now that I’m finished with the intensive cancer care, I can better focus on my trans issues, and I’m looking forward to doing so.

Radiation Follow-Up

This entry is part 35 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

This won’t be a very long post. Honestly, my radiation follow-up was rather anticlimactic, which is what any cancer patient wants, I imagine. I certainly did. Dr. Poppe was pleased with my breast’s condition, as it has made a complete recovery from the burns it had developed.

Over the course of the visit, I saw a resident as well as my doctor. Resident happened to be going through his second residency—he used to be an OB/GYN doc, taught a little, and decided to care for cancer patients. He did not look old enough to have had teaching experience.

Both the resident and Dr. Poppe gave me breast exams, and my doc discussed with me my hormone suppressant therapy regimen. There was some slight confusion, as Dr. Colonna had put in my notes she wants to put me on Tamoxifen instead of the combo therapy I’m on now (she called me about this some few days ago). Once all that was straightened out, Dr. Poppe and the nurse chaperone filled out a form for me to give to the receptionists regarding my next visit for radiation follow-up. It’s to happen a couple days before my birthday in November. LOL

Bone Density Scan

This entry is part 34 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

Today, I had an appointment for a bone density scan. It was made yesterday afternoon for 2:45 PM this afternoon; apparently, they had room to “squeeze” me in this afternoon for whatever reason. This was a VA appointment, and it was for a baseline reading of my bones in line with my cancer after care (the hormone suppressant therapy).

The radiology department is on the first floor (above the ground floor) of . . . I forget which building in the Salt Lake VA Hospital complex. It’s actually a series of interconnected buildings accessible either from the outside or, as I do, from the inside via sometimes extemely long corridors. The “section” of the hospital I had to access is right across from the elevators I usually take up to the first floor—or to AMU for my Oncology stuff. There are actually two entrances to the radiology department, one through a door into a waiting room, or around the “corner” off the main corridor through a double-wide doorway I’ve seen them use for hospital gurneys. I used the door.

They’re remodeling the desk area of the radiology department, so I had to go around a corner to find where they have at temporary setup and get directions on where to go—because that wasn’t, as I thought, my destination. So, down the hall from the double-wide doorway, around a corner, down another hall. At the check in desk, I received questionnaires and a pregnancy form to fill out in the nearby waiting room, which had a door and windows to a parking area.

I filled out the paperwork and waited for about . . . an hour and a half. Why? Because I’d gone early in hopes they’d be able to fit me in sooner. Even after eating lunch in the cafeteria, I still had that much time to wait. I read a book. When the DEXA tech came to get me, I was more than happy to go.

After changing into the sweatpants I brought with me, and putting on the hospital robe (as opposed to gown—it opened in the front and actually fit my plus-size body), I was escorted to the DEXA room. My weight and height were taken, then I was told to lay on a long foam-covered bed, and to ensure I lined the middle of my body up with the white line down the center of the black padding. Then I proceeded to, as instructed, lower my sweatpants to about mid-thigh; their bulkiness and the waistband can cause interference on the X-Ray.

At the foot of this bed was an X-Ray arm. Once I was stretched out on the bed with my fat restrained for the spine scan, the tech had her training-assistant move the X-Ray arm to about mid-abdomen after much verification of where my belly button was. Tech put my lower legs up on a foam wedge and covered my lower legs with another sheet. After ensuring I was comfortable, they set up the X-Ray arm and had it scan my spine from about the point of the sternum to the tailbone. This took several minutes.

Following that, they removed the wedge, turned my whole leg in (which made my hips feel just great—LOL) to get an X-Ray of a narrow portion of my hipbone between the ball joint and the end of my thigh bone, which, according to the tech, is prone to breaking if osteoporosis sets in. Osteoporosis being one of the big side effects of menopause, which my hormone suppressant therapy has thrown me into. For this scan, I was required to use part of the abdominal sheet to pull my incredible roll of fat off where it rested over my hips so they could get a clear picture. They did the scan, first the left, then the right, with a break in between—which I needed, ’cause my right hand started to cramp.

Lastly, Tech strapped my left forearm to a board after positioning my arm just-so; she explained this was the hardest part of the scan to get “right” on subsequent scans because there’s no way to ensure the hand is in the exact same position as it was the first time. They made this scan, then moved the X-Ray arm down my body and helped me sit up.

After we all were certain my head wasn’t going to spin off, I got to my feet and returned to the little half-bath to retrieve my clothes and dress once more. As I had no other appointments up at the VA today, I was free to go, and I was quite happy to do so. I think next time I’ll try to get an earlier appointment if possible.

Radiation Side Effects

This entry is part 32 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

Radiation treatment isn’t a free ride. It also has some side effects.

Fatigue was a big one for me. I usually spend about 12-15 hours a day awake. Yes, I sleep up to 12 hours daily; it’s just the way my bipolar works. Sometimes I can get by for a few days on anywhere between 6-9 hours, but most of the time, I go to bed and spend an hour or three wide awake before finally dropping off to sleep. Depends, as I said, on my bipolar.

With the radiation, I was getting up at ten in the morning; leaving for my two-in-the-afternoon appointment at around noon because I’m on public transit; getting home anywhere from three thirty to five depending on how long treatment (including waiting, if they were behind) took and if I needed to see my radiation oncologist, followed by the trip home; and going to bed between six and seven thirty at night. I typically got to sleep before eight, I was so weary from the combined radiation fatigue and weekday-daily trips up to the cancer hospital. I do not want to contemplate what kind of condition I’d have been in if I’d had to work as well.

With breast cancer, and I imagine pretty much every other type, they’ll tell you to get lotion and offer a list of those which work best. I didn’t get any of these lotions the first week of treatment. I have since concluded I should have stopped at the store the day of my radiation sim and picked up one of the suggested lotions. Neither did I, once I had the lotion, perform the care necessary for preventing radiation burns with it. I developed these burns beginning the third week of treatment.

They aren’t pleasant. They aren’t fun. So, when told to get lotion, I strongly encourage anyone reading this to get the lotion and make sure you use it frequently and with abandon. My radiation burns developed first on the underside of my right breast, from which skin has been . . . um, I want to say peeling, but it’s not dry. It’s gross. More burns developed early last week under my arm, and those have been driving me batty. They itch, have the same gross peeling-skin as the under-breast burn, and are kept in a constant state of raw painfulness because it’s hard to live life with my arm constantly raised (LOL).

Luckily, I started tending to my areola and nipple before the skin on it got bad. Previously, it had a brown appearance, as though it had been deliberately left to tan in the sun. Now it’s pink again, and the skin coming off it is dry and flaky. It occasionally sends spikes of stinging pain through my breast because the nipple is oversensitive and no matter what I do, there’s some level of discomfort involved in its current condition. I don’t dare go without a bra, though; that would make it worse.

I’ve been putting Neosporin on the underbreast burn consistently, and that seems to be helping. Also on the underarm burn, which also seems to be improving. I now lotion the top and sides of my breast and alternate putting lotion and Neosporin on my areola and nipple.

In addition to these side effects, my breast became quite ruddy as a result of the treatment. This, and, according to my radiation oncologist, Dr. Poppe, some tenderness is quite common and to be expected.

Radiation Treatment

This entry is part 31 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

Radiation treatment for breast cancer is pretty simple. A typical treatment regimen lasts for 6 to 6-1/2 weeks, with a standard dose of radiation for most of the duration, then a period of a few days with a “boost” or additional radiation to finalize the treatment. The patient goes in weekdays for the treatment, and doesn’t go in on holidays, at least where I was getting my treatment. The Huntsman Cancer Institute isn’t open on holidays. Other cancer clinics and hospitals may be.

I didn’t have this. My treatment was 15 days. I had this reduced treatment period because I joined a research study and was randomized into the experimental arm. My treatment consisted of what I’d have been getting had I gone the six-plus weeks, with my boost administered at the same time. I forgot to get information on what substance they were using for my treatment, and though I did think to ask after dosages, I didn’t write it down and didn’t get a chance to before I forgot. I’ll get that information when I see my radiation oncologist in May.

At the Huntsman, cancer treatment involves changing into a gown. Since it was my breast, I removed only my shirt and bra and wrapped the gown around myself. Then a wait in a small waiting room with other female cancer patients (men had their own changing and waiting rooms). When called back to the treatment area, I’d walk up a hall with the technician and stop at a computer to state my name and birthdate, something they have patients do to ensure they have the right one and that they’re thinking clearly. Usually a tech would fetch a warm blanket for me.

Radiation Machine

This is the radiation machine. Its bed/table already has my mold on it, covered by a sheet so I wouldn’t stick to the plastic which held the substance. The part at the top is where the radiation comes from, and there’s a little panel on the bottom end of the machine which extends out, I suppose to “catch” the radiation.

For treatment, I’d climb onto the table, make sure my rump settled against the butt-bump, which is barely visible in the lower right hand corner of the image, and arrange my head, shoulders, and arms as the mold dictates. Once I was basically comfortable, a tech would raise the bed and both would proceed to roll or tug me enough to get me into proper position for the treatment. Once or twice, they had to tape my right arm a bit so no part of it would be in the field of the radiation. The first time, about midway through treatments on the seventh or eighth day, and the last day, they took X-rays to ensure I was in proper position.

If you look at the image, you’ll see the rotational part of the floor, to which the bed is connected. First, the bed would run up into this, putting my head close to the screen on the machine. As this occurred, the top of the machine rotates to the left. I’d usually have to adjust my left arm so it wouldn’t hit my elbow; the whole thing is about two or three feet across. Since my head faced to the left, I got to see the face of the administration area every day; rows of bars which look like ribbing frame the area; they can be adjusted so only the area assigned for treatment receives the radiation. A light would shine from this area as it adjusted for treatment.

Once everything was positioned correctly, the radiation machine would proceed to hum and buzz and click as treatment was given. There is no physical sensation to this. No pain, no warming of the skin, no tingling. Nothing.

The machine would then rotate to my right for additional treatment. I’m not sure exactly what part was the boost, but this was definitely step two. As the machine rotated, it would click as the ribbing-bars under its glass face were adjusted to shape for administering radiation on the right side of my breast. I never saw what it did precisely, because I was not permitted to move my head from its position; to do so may have shifted me too much for treatment to be accurate. Once the machine settled on the right side, with the black panel thing extended in my view, the machine would hum and buzz and click again. Again, no sensation accompanied this.

The Cone

After this, the techs would come in and adjust the bed’s position so they could put the cone on (see in image above). This is designed to block off the additional radiation so it would affect only the area of my breast where the lump was. I think this was the boost, but I can’t be certain without asking, so don’t quote me. The techs left and more clicking and buzzing and humming for the last step of treatment.

With this, treatment would be completed, and they’d lower and pull the bed out of position so I could move around and sit up.

Radiation Sim

This entry is part 30 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

At three in the afternoon, 26 February of this year, I had my radiation simulation appointment.

This was pretty involved, compared to the radiation treatments themselves. After changing into a hospital gown open in the front, I was taken to the radiation chamber. In this room they have the radiation machine. It’s kind of hard to describe, but it has a table/bed with a slightly-propped up head beneath an overhanging unit which actually administers the radiation. I’m sure the head of the bed can be lowered, but for this it was left propped up and had my mold on it; there’s a slot in the table, and a protrusion on the bottom of my mold so it doesn’t slip. The techs covered the table and mold with a sheet, and there was a little butt-rest. After I got on the table, they tucked a knee pillow under my legs.

Then I laid there for about half an hour or so while they did various things.

First was positioning me. After commanding me to lay like a lead weight, the techs proceeded to quote numbers at each other (ninety-nine five is a popular one) and adjust my position minutely. This involved tugging the sheet beneath me, pushing my legs around, and making sure my upper body was properly positioned in its mold. They then drew circles around the tattooed dot on my right side and between my breasts.

They took X-Rays to mark my position so they could do comparisons later to make sure I’m in the same position for radiation treatments. The head of the machine moved as well, I guess so they could determine where it should be for optimum radiation dosage. An oblong oval was also drawn on my breast, one end going around the inside of my areola and extending to past the seven o’clock position on my breast. This was done in black marker; they also made another mark in green to assist with their adjustments of the machine.

They had a Pandora music station playing and allowed me to choose what I wanted to listen to, so aside from paying attention and asking questions whenever a tech was in the room with me, I got to relax to some good music.

When they were done, one of the techs told me not to wash off the black ink on my breast ’cause they’d need it for guidance the next day. I told him that might be a challenge, half-joking, and he offered a Tegaderm patch and stuck it on the portion of the oval which extends past the seven o’clock position. That done, I was escorted back to the waiting room and returned to the changing room from there to dress.

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