When we saw Dr. W and Dr. MHW yesterday, I had asked if I would get tattoos on today’s visit. Dr. W said yes, and added with a sly smile that it’s battleship week.
It is with this in mind that I proudly share my battleship tattoo. My friend L sent this to me a few weeks ago, along with some other great temporary tattoos. Today seemed like the right day to get this temporary tattoo party started. Plus…battleship week.
We went back to RI Hospital today for my radiation “planning meeting.”
This was less a meeting than a 40 minute prep session involving the saddest excuse for a spa experience I’ve ever seen and a bunch of deep breathing.
Let me explain.
When I arrived, I was instructed to change out of my shirt and bra and put on two johnnies: one tied in back and one tied in front. I was advised that “they” prefer that we use the blue ones to tie in front. This seemed awfully picky to me, until I put them on, and realized that the blue ones provide a refined, smoking jacket sort of air to the whole hospital gown thing, and I was pleased to have followed the directions. I then walked myself to Waiting Room A, where Husband had already been told to wait for me.
Upon entering Waiting Room A, I discovered that they have an abundance of comfortable faux-leather chairs there for our waiting pleasure. I have to admit that this is far more comfortable than my previous experience with a radiation clinic waiting room. (Still, in defense of the Brigham & Women’s radiation clinic, they had really great snacks.)
A few minutes later, a radiation tech named Sheena (that’s actually her name, I couldn’t help but to include it here) led me from the waiting room to the scanning room. Based on her extended vowels, I judged Sheena to be of Midwestern origin. This made me like her right off the bat.
Sheena introduced me to her colleague, who prepared a quick-set plaster in a sterile blue bag while Sheena told me what we were about to do. I was there to have a CT scan that would give the radiation oncologists a better view of my chest. They wanted to have a big picture view of my entire chest, and also to take some images of my heart using the deep breathing technique I mentioned yesterday.
Dr. W came in to ask me a few questions and be sure I understood what was going on. He said that I’d get to lay down in my “mud bath” in a moment, and I expressed my surprise to find that they offered these spa experiences as part of radiation. Sheena’s colleague then placed the blue bag on top of the scanning table. Laying on my back, I reclined on top of the bag and put my hands over my head. I was told to lay very still and keep my head turned to the right so the plaster would set. The goal of this process was to create a customized mold that will be placed underneath me during each radiation treatment, so that I’m in the same exact location each time.
While the mold was setting, they began the CT scans. First they scanned me while I breathed normally, and then again using the deep breathing technique. I had to hold this deep breath without moving at all for 30 seconds (this is the duration of each radiation zap during treatment, with a few zaps aimed from different directions in each treatment) so they could get good images of the location of my heart, and also to be sure that the deep breaths were consistent. I’m sure they did other, much more technical things, too.
Finally, once the scans were finished and everyone was satisfied, they gave me my tattoos. They are, alas, far less interesting than my battleship. These are tiny little dots that you would not even notice unless I pointed them out: one on each of my sides and one on my chest. Husband tried taking a photo of the side tattoos and I VERY quickly decided that those would not be shared.
Next step: the practice run. This will happen August 31. In the meantime, the docs will look at all of my scans to make the final determination about the short vs. long course.
At the end of my visit today, Dr. W told me that my deep breaths were completely successful in moving my heart out of the way. This is good news, not only for the obvious reason, but also because I think this means I’ll get the shorter course of radiation. (!!) I’ll get a confirmation on this on the 31st, if not sooner. More soon!