50 Gray

No, this is not a post about Fifty Shades of Grey. My sister-in-law gave me that book for my birthday and I haven’t gotten into it yet. But apparently the whole thing is bondage and sex, which she must feel I could use some of at the moment.

Rather, this is about the planning session I attended this morning for my radiotherapy treatments. One “gray,” which was defined in honour of Louis Harold Gray, is the absorption of one joule of energy, in the form of ionising radiation, per kilogram of matter. It just so happens that my prescribed dose is 50 gray, delivered in 25 sessions. It’s bound to be loads more fun than mummy (that’s mommy if you are in America — I am not making a reference to dead ancient Egyptians) porn, delivered in 500 some odd pages. Not.

So I left my house at about 9:10 am and in it FIVE girls (my kids and my good friend’s three kids, because my friend had a doctor’s appointment at that same time and needed childcare), the housekeeper and the nanny.

For once in my life I left enough time to take the tube. And I even brought a book so I would have something to do on the tube. On the platform after exiting at Warren Street I caught site of the very nice woman and fellow survivor I had met while getting my nails done a few weeks ago (remember her from Why I’m Lucky?) and I even remembered her name. Is that proof enough for you that I don’t have chemo brain? I called out, she turned and we ended up walking all the way to the place together. She’d been there, you see. Been there; done that.

The planning session consisted of meeting with a radiographer (or whatever the appropriate term is) for an initial Q&A, during which I always ask about a billion questions and make things take twice as long. I can’t help it. Inquiring minds want to know.

Prior to that I was greeted by two very pleasant, well-mannered ladies who offered me a cappuccino and even took and rinsed out my thermos, which contained a yucky coffee I had brought from home and wanted to discard because I had inadvertently grabbed the housekeeper’s coffee and it had sugar in it. Blech. Taste bud shock. You would never get this service in the US. Would you? Tell me where if I am wrong; I’d love to know.

Then I went into the scan room where the team positioned me on this table with my arms above my head and then drew all over me and placed wires and whatnots on me and took measurements. Laser beams from the ceiling made marks on me so that they could tell if I was properly aligned. Pretty cool, really. There were three or four ladies with one dude in charge of the proceedings.

Here is a thought. The dude was young and good-looking, and there I was disrobed from the waist up, with my weird “newbs” out, and I didn’t even feel the slightest bit self-conscious. All modesty has gone right out the window with this thing. In fact I was making them all crack up. After my oncologist’s radiographer had put ink and wires all over me, she snapped a couple of photos of the area and I said “this isn’t exactly the nude photo shoot I had been dreaming of… but it will have to do.” She also asked me where I was from and when I indicated I had spent a good deal of time in Manhattan having grown up in Connecticut and been most recently from Boston she wanted to know if we really used the word “smock” in New York. “What?” I said. “Smock,” she repeated. I said I had no idea what she was talking about. Then she said that her husband had bumped someone at the airport and the man had called him “a smock.” Ha ha. “Oh yes,” I replied. “I believe the term you are looking for is ‘Schmuck,’ not ‘smock.'” Now if that doesn’t make you laugh you are truly brain-dead. The English. Good grief.

Anyhow then they took all that crap off me and did the CT scan — it was very quick. Following that, one of the radiographers made three small tattoos on my skin with a blueish ink. One in between my “boobs” and one on either side of my body on the rib cage. That helps them line me up with the lasers and make sure that I am positioned correctly for all radiation sessions. Although I wasn’t deliriously happy about being tattooed and having yet another reminder of all this cancer shit, I figured it made sense to let them do their thing so they get it right. Over time I won’t mind these marks much. They are just little blueish freckles.

After all the fun was over I had another session with a nurse who talked to me about potential side effects, mainly fatigue and skin effect (burning, blistering and breakdown — the three “B’s”). She indicated that the skin reactions are cumulative. Usually the skin doesn’t react right away. It generally happens after about two plus weeks in. I am hoping that this lovely 10% calendula cream called My Girls Cream (tee hee) that was sent to me by a fellow survivor in the US helps me sail through the treatments without too much burning or skin breakdown. Those photons can be mighty hard on a girl (or a guy for that matter).

Then I was done. Feeling pretty good about the whole morning. Not so long; not so bad.

Until I got home and found out that the five little devils had made two holes in my girls’ bedroom walls. The two five-year-olds barricaded themselves in Charlotte’s room and went at this rather soft part of the wall (I don’t know why it is soft but it is) with a pair of scissors and by the time it was discovered had hammered about a four-inch-high narrow gash in the wall out of which dust, dirt and debris (the three “D’s”) was falling out and staining the carpet (thank God for replaceable carpet tiles).

Meanwhile on the other side of the wall, the big girls had exacerbated a small dent that had already been in Isabel’s wall, which now also had the three D’s coming out of it.

All I could think was WTF. Are you kidding me? My girls are lucky I am too weak to give them a good beating. I told Bill about the episode in an email and of course he thought it was mostly funny. Which I suppose it is, in the long run. But seriously, holes in the wall? I told them if they want to fuck up their own house when they are adults they can do so but until then this behaviour is 100% unacceptable.

Here I thought the hardest part of my day was having radiation planning. But it wasn’t. I guess that is something to be thankful for in itself, no? After lunch, at which no one was allowed to get dessert (duh), we went home and things improved. My girls read and did art projects and ended the evening by putting on bathing suits and 3D glasses, getting beach towels and pretending to sun bathe (it was neither warm nor sunny enough for such) in the garden. And I retaliated by whipping up a killer marinara sauce (no recipe) in which I hid an entire zucchini. My kids hate zucchini. I still haven’t told them they ate it right up. Little blighters. Ha ha.

1 thought on “50 Gray

  1. Hi Em: You reminded me of a story from when my mother was sick and quarantined as a kid (whooping cough, I think), and of course bored. So she cut the pears and peaches out of the wallpaper next to her bed, claiming she had heard that fruit was good for her. Love to you all.

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