I am halfway through my six-week course of radiation therapy. Every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday I am dropped off close to the Alewife T station. I walk a concrete path past a soccer field and playground, where nobody is ever playing, along the long side of a chainlink fence dog park, where dogs are always playing, across a few bus lanes, down a brick ramp and skid-resistant stairs, underground to the subway. I try to sit down at the end of the car, where there is the most room to stretch my legs and read. I sometimes watch the drawn, sleepy faces of other commuters, and wonder if they are going to work, or if anyone else is traveling inbound to a Boston hospital like me. For the first few weeks, I oftentimes nearly missed my transfer to the Green Line, my focus on the pages of Merle’s Door or Outlaw Platoon. Since last Friday, radiation has taken its toll and I am too tired to focus on reading for long. I sit and wonder if my face looks like my traveling comrades. I don’t almost miss my stop.
I check in at the front desk at BWH’s radiation oncology department, say hi to smiley LaToya, then make my way to the women’s dressing room where I change into what my mom loves to call a “johnny”, open to the back. Then one of the three adorable twenty-something-year-old radiation techs (or Richard) appears and calls me back to be radiated. I hop up on a metal gurney, covered with a white sheet, uncover my right boob, then put my arms up in some metal holder things, so that they rest above my head. Then the girls pull and tug on the sheet, trying to line my blue-green tattoos up with the red laser that shines down from the ceiling. Given my position and the need for me to remain still, my view of the scene is of the tech’s shoulders and faces and the ceiling. I usually end up slightly contorted after the pulling and tugging, and distract myself by trying to catch a glimpse of my muffin top in the reflection from radiation machine.
The girls run out of the room and say “Here we go!” A red light turns on and buzzes for ten seconds. Then I hear the aperture of the machine change, and the light and buzzing starts again for two seconds, then it changes again and buzzes for two seconds. Then the machine whirls around me and radiates my boob from the other direction. I have to remain in my somewhat compromising position until the techs return and tell me I can put my arms down. Then I am done. Except on Wednesdays, when I meet with Dr. Bellon briefly afterward, so she can make sure I am tolerating the treatment. I get dressed, grab a water or coffee for the road, and return to my aunt and mom’s house.
How do I feel, now that I am halfway through? I wonder if I am halfway through my life, if I am going to have a shorter life than average. Then again, I am happy, and I can’t wait to live my life post-cancer. Mostly, I am excited to be someone other than a cancer patient.
What happens next? I don’t know, and for the first time in a long time, not knowing feels kinda good.