So I thought that radiation was a simple thing. Get your tattoos and then point and shoot. Not so. After asking many questions, which in themselves make me feel like a dummy when I ask them, especially when I get a vague answer like, "I don't know. It makes the radiation work better", I think I have the gist of what it does.
First you go in and get "staged". A CT scan is done and lots of x-rays. The stager (Teresa) and Oncologist (Dr. Lauther) draw all over your chest with a Black Sharpie Felt pen and tell you not to wash it off. Didn't your mother always tell you not to do that when you were a kid? Next, you walk around for about 5 days with the rectangles and dots on your chest until you go back for "confirmation". More x-rays and a check to see if all the info they entered into the computer still make the simulator match up with your lines and dots. If that is the case, the Sharpie comes out again and more lines and dots are drawn on. At last, if all is well, the tattoo needle comes out and you get 4 of the dots permanently tattooed on - a burning, needle in the skin sort of experience. Don't know how those with big tattoos do it.
The next day you come back and go to the treatment room, a whole new experience and team (Lydia and ? and ?). They have another machine that rotates around you to find your tattoos and then whirrs while you are being shot full of the "radiation". This happens 3 times a day for me for 28 days. No treatments on weekends or holidays. Guess cancer doesn't work then. How does it know?
During the treatments, Lydia and team, started putting a cold sheet that they refer to as the fake skin on my chest. It is supposed to fake out the computer to make it think that my skin is higher than it is so that the x-rays are brought to the surface of my scar. I asked if everyone gets this and was told no. I asked how they decide who gets it. Is it just for us lucky mastectomy patients? The answer was no and hmmmm...... the doctor decides who gets it. My doctor never mentioned it to me. The next day, Lydia is out sick and I ask Teresa. She says it is mostly for mastectomy patients since their treatment area is flat and close to the chest. It fools the machine into thinking it is higher.
Next thing I noticed was that every time the machine rotated down to my side, the team would come and put a big tray into it like those used for x-rays. I thought they were taking more x-rays but they informed me that those were also to fool the machine so that it would spread the x-rays out to cover the whole chest wall area. Sometimes they put these in and sometimes they don't. Depends on whether the computer determines that the machine needs fooling or not. Again, I don't know how that works.
I am thinking this radiation thing is much more complicated than we are lead to believe and am very curious about the computer thing, daily recalculations and fooling the machine. Like, "why is the sky blue?", this is probably something that will remain a mystery to me.........