• Another 100 Days of Good Karma: Day 242 (Radiation Treatment 4 of 30: Compassion for Others)

    compassion

    Tuesday, March 10, 2015

    Run/ Walk/ Bike/ Elliptical (Today:  0.00 miles;  Running Total: 199.44 miles)

    Day 242 of *Another* 100 Days of Good Karma.

    I found a workout video on YouTube:  30-Minute Bodyweight Bootcamp Workout You Can Do Anywhere.  I went easy on the push ups and planks.  Those are so hard right now.  My upper body is weak, and I can feel the difference in the way the muscle moves over the tissue expander on my right side.  It feels very different from the left side.  I know it’ll take time to strengthen my upper body again.  I just have to be patient.

    (not my strong suit)

    The radiation facility I go to treats all cancer patients — not just for breast cancer. As a breast cancer patient, I’m probably one of the fortunate ones.  At least in terms of radiation.

    There is another patient who comes into the office about the same time I do.  She’s maybe in her mid-forties and has obviously had some sort of surgery on her mouth and neck.  She doesn’t speak very well though she always wishes me ‘good morning’.

    A few days ago I overheard her doctor and nurses talking in the hallway about how hard a time she was having wearing her ‘mask’.  They said she took her mask off during radiation.

    Today I overheard her doctor encouraging her to take her medicine before she came in for treatment.  I didn’t mean to eavesdrop.  The conversation just happened to occur in the dressing room while I was getting my clothes out of my locker.  Also, it’s hard not to listen when you’re a) curious and b) wish you could help in some way.

    I don’t know what type of cancer this woman is fighting, but I’m guessing she’s probably on anxiety medication.  Once I learned what the masks were for, I know I would be, too.

    I see these masks sitting on the shelves outside the radiation treatment area.  They’re hard and they have all the eeriness of mannequin heads.

    radiationmasknopersoninside

    Radiation mask without a person inside.

     

    I asked one of my nurses what the masks were used for.  I phrased the question in a generically curious way.  I don’t want to pry into anyone’s private medical business or put my nurse in an awkward position of politely telling me to butt out.

    My nurse told me the masks are used to hold the patient in place.  When there’s head and neck radiation to be delivered the patient has to hold very, very still.

    I don’t consider myself claustrophobic.  I’ve been in some pretty small spaces and have been just fine.  But the thought of being restrained by my head, by my face … This gives me pause.

    Radiation mask with person inside.

    Radiation mask with person inside.

    My heart goes out to this woman.  I wish so badly that I could do something to make her treatments easier.  Since I can’t, I’ll just try and educate as much as I can.

    When you see someone who has an obvious speech impediment and has had some kind of surgery on their neck or face, they might be going through something like this.

    Please, be kind.  Try and put yourself in their shoes for a minute.

    You might find them very hard to wear.

    Today’s silver lining:  I’m grateful I don’t have to wear a radiation mask.

    What’s your silver lining today?  I love comments!

    Don’t want to leave a comment, but have something you want to share?  Send me an email at gettingthewordswrong(at)gmail(dot)com.

    xoxo,
    Meghan

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5 Responsesso far.

  1. Excellent advice.

    Here’s some more photos with a “real live” person if anyone is curious. These pics are from my husband’s radiation simulation session, when the mask was first created. My husband is one of those people who can sit through an MRI without any claustrophobia, so he did not need to premed for his radiation treatments. But you can certainly understand how it probably freaks out a lot of people. https://www.flickr.com/photos/thermalnoise/sets/72157645353768970/

    • Meghan says:

      Wow, thank you for sharing! I’m glad he’s ok with the treatment. The lady I spoke of was definitely struggling. It’s good to know it’s not so bad for everyone.

  2. Pam says:

    Thank you, again, for writing about cancer treatment with such depth and compassion. I mention your blog to friends several times per week. Another great entry that really makes me think.

    Hugs,
    Pam

  3. Monica says:

    I’m not claustrophobic, but I don’t like being pinned/held down. I think that mask would freak me out too!
    When I start to complain about all my new aches and pains, and the joy of getting older, I stop and think of you and all that you’re going thru, and it puts me in my place. Guess it’s better to get older, and have these little nuances, then not too. I will now add that lady’s circumstances to my thought too. Thanks for sharing all of your experiences!

  4. Mom says:

    I am very claustrophobic! and that scares the hell out of me. It’s like for throat cancer all all that. I’ve known lots of peoplein this area with throat cancer and they are full of it after that treatment. But the one thing that they say is that they are alive. My mom had throat cancer, unfortunately we didn’t know this aspect of her life until after she died. Know your body and don’t give up on anything! Love ya, Mom

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