A Radiation Routine

Sorry, it’s been a while since I last posted. I am usually exhausted after work and although my blog is written in my head as I drive home, it has not made it to the blog until now.
I have so much to be thankful for this holiday season and I loved spending Thanksgiving with family!

Well on to the update…I began the next phase of treatment on November 8th…Radiation Therapy

You know, radiation, when they shoot invisible rays through your body that attack the rapidly growing cancer cells that remain.
Oh yeah, they also kill good cells, cause skin dryness, skin irritation, skin burns, memory loss, shooting pains through the chest wall and of course…fatigue.
And radiation is everyday Monday through Friday for six weeks.

Sometimes I think everything up to now was just warming me up for this.
Surgery – 4 weeks rest before chemo began
AC Chemo – 2 weeks rest between four treatments
Taxol/Herceptin – 1 week rest between twelve weekly treatments
Radiation – 23 hours rest between treatment tomorrow

Then again, I don’t really think anyone is ever ready for this.

The therapists at the Cancer Care Center think I’m crazy, I’m sure, but I’m in a radiation groove now.

The first two times I went to therapy I donned two gowns. First you put on a gown open in the back and then a gown open in the front – everything off except your underwear and you shuffle from the waiting room in your socks where you take off one gown and lay on the table/bed where the therapists lay a blanket on your waist and legs for warmth. No clothes, no scarves or wigs, no necklace or earrings, I feel very bare as I wait. So I laid and prayed while they proceeded. Then it’s over and you shuffle back to the dressing room until tomorrow.

As I left the second day, I realized I could not let radiation control who I am or what I do. I needed to make this my experience and so began my routine.

Radiation at University of Chicago, Cancer Care Center, New Lenox, IL

Out of the house by 7:35 to get to the center timely.
I always bring my treatment bag, the one that my thoughtful niece Erin bought me for my surgery…my first step of this journey last May. It’s filled with things that make this my experience…keep reading!
Arrive and greet the receptionist warmly, get the swipe card for entrance into the radiation department
Enter the women’s changing area and open locker #7 – I always look for 7, a biblical number or 14, my wedding day – there is only locker numbers 7-13, so I always choose 7. This is never a problem, because they schedule the appointments so patients are not waiting, I have yet to change with another person in the changing area. On the one hand it’s nice and quiet, but on the other hand, it is nice to meet others for support and encouragement (remember my post about Emily?).
Grab one gown and change into – putting all my clothes, necklace, earrings and shoes in my bag.
Out of the bag comes the beautiful quilt that my sister Toni made. This quilt has wrapped me with the warmth of love through every chemo, so of course it had to replace the second gown for my backside and the blanket once I get in the treatment room for my waist and legs. I also added slippers to my daily fashion show. Erin also got me a really cute beige pair with white polka dots, they make me smile just slipping my socked feet into them.
I put on my thin cute peach hat that fits snuggly to my head. My dad taught me early that most of your heat escapes through your head, so don a cap and I can really feel a difference…oh how I miss my long hair sigh
Then I sit and wait for someone to come and lead me back to the radioactive room with the radiation caution signs on the door and walls.
Boy what a sight I must be…hospital gown, quilt, socks, slippers, cap, holding my #7 key 🙂
As I enter the room I leave the key on the counter, sit on the side of the table and remove my slippers. I unwrap the quilt so it can move from my back to my bottom half as I lay back on the table. The only piece of jewelry that can make it through this process is my birthday bracelet. Friends and family filled a Pandora bracelet with charms that have a significant meaning or represent me to them. It is a beautiful reminder of all the love that embraces my life. I’m as so glad it does not get in the way of the radiation beams.
After minutes of the therapist speaking in a language only they understand “shift my cradle”, “adjust the crown”, “roll a quarter”…all to move me ever so slightly so that I line up with the green laser lights shooting from the walls, ceiling and machine.
Finally I am lined up where they want me and they place a plastic gel square on my left chest. This helps the rays stay close to the surface of my skin and not go deeper than Dr. McCall wants. The two therapists say “Okay, we are all ready” and then they leave me.  Alone in a room to willingly allow my body to accept the damaging radiation rays that will kill the cancer.

I pray…some might listen to music they begin …I pray.

It’s what I know to do, prayer is where I find my center point. It’s where I find peace, it’s where I find strength.

Radiation prayer is my opportunity to call all those loved ones in heaven to be with me, my family and all those going through a cancer journey.

When they walk out of the CAUTION RADIATION EXPOSURE room, I begin my prayer to the saints who surround me.
I call upon Saints: Joseph, Isola, Henry, Gertrude, Donald, MaryJo, Marie, Anthony, Samuel, Mattie who have gone before me
then I call upon all the patron saints of friends and family that strengthen my journey, Saints: Diane, Gianna, Nicolas, Raymond, James, Colleen, Ashley, Matthew, Margaret, Francis, Michael, Josephine, Terese, Gilbert, Cecilia, Henry, Rose, Robert, Zachariah, John, Kevin, Solomon, Victoria, Daniel, Julia, Ann, Angeline, Paul, Elizabeth, Erin, Lawrence, Thomas, Susan, Christina, Luke, Jude, Gerald, Ruth, George, and so many more.

Isn’t that a great group of saints! I am so fortunate to have so many people in my life that are here to support me. They help me stay focused and pray for all those that are part of the Communion of Saints as the Creed tells us. We are all united, living and those alive in heaven – and we are all here to help each other.

So my routine continues…every day…up and out the house, wrapped in the comfort of my loved ones through quilts, slippers, bracelet and prayers, with key number 7, I forge ahead to the end goal of “Cancer free, see you in six months”!!

Grace embraced through the wonderful therapists; Kim, Joann, Rosie, nurses aide, Rochelle, and nurse Nicole that are smiling every morning as I arrive. They spread joy during a challenging period in the lives of so many. They console, care and share their lives with me and others. May God bless those who minister to the sick.

Don’t worry about anything, but in prayer and thanksgiving, make your request known to God. Philippians 4:6






12 thoughts on “A Radiation Routine

  1. Janet, when I read your post, I cried. I cried because usually most people feel by the time you get to radiation you are through the worst part. I cried because radiation is such a lonely time. I cried because of the scene you created day in and day out, going into the radiation room stripped except for the few things you cling to…I cried because it is just you and those awful machines, and the light from your prayers. I cried because I didn’t allow myself to cry when I endured radiation – thank you for giving me the opportunity to cry.
    Now I can repay you with my prayers.

    • Thank you Denise for the prayers, I hope to be able to release the tears once I am done, for now I have to stay strong as you did and make it through! Your comments help so much. Blessings to you this holy season

  2. You’re the Best dearest Janet; thank you for sharing, so enlightening, especially from a woman’s perspective; we can feel the emotions, and the love those around you share with you, and you with us by your sharing. Love, Marie.

  3. Hi Janet, Been busy with assorted stuff not nearly as important as what you are going through. I just wanted to let you know that you are always in our thoughts around here. If there is anything we can do or help with please do not hesitate to ask. Looking forward to getting together with you guys when you are feeling up to it.

Your thoughts warm my heart and strengthen my path, thanks for commenting on my journey,

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