after coffee

July 22, 2007 § 6 Comments

I take Frannie to camp. There’s some haggling involved. No matter what time she goes to bed, she wants to sleep more.

And then, there’s the stretching. So much stretching. What’s with thoes long legs.

Breakfast is easy. Cheerios. There’s watching the gerbils, if we remember. Feeding them, if we remember. I unload the dishwasher and pack lunch. We manage to leave the house with a minimum of four bags. I carry all of them. 1) a napsack 2) a lunchbox 3) a bag of garbage to deposit on the way to the car 4) my combo napsack, pocketbook, canvas tote.

We drive to camp. She blows me a kiss, and waves goodbye.

kiss.jpg wave-goodbye.jpg

I drive home and I park the car. It’s 9a and I walk 2 miles to my 9:30a radiation appointment at the BIDMC. I walk because my day may be busy and walking 4 miles roundtrip guarantees modest exercise for the day.

walking-to-treatment.jpg walking-past-st-paul.jpg

Approaching the building I pick up speed. 9:28am. There’s a Dunkin Donuts in the lobby which I pass. I am never tempted to stop. My first week I got lost, now I know which hallway to walk down and find the elevator easily. I press B for radiation oncology. There is something telling about treamtments that are reserved for the bowels of a building.

I scan in with my “blue card”. They’re very efficient this way. A flawless organization at work; moving people in and out all day with hardly a wait. Most days I’ll bypass changing into a robe or jonny. I have mastered the art of slipping my shirt on and off in a matter of seconds. It’s faster, and the less time in hospital attire the better.

One technician was pregant. I asked her if she had concerns working in radiation. She looked at me like I was an alien or an idiot. “There’s no radiation here”. Clearly she has confidence in the targeted beams and I suspect reasonable health insurance should anything be amiss.


Once on the table I lose myself in my ipod. I listen to something classical or latin. The meditation tapes I tried early on were too meditiative. I prefer music that can mask the drone of the buzzing machine each time another dosage hits me.


Every other day is a bolus day. I call it a bollucks day. The bolus is wet towel wrapped in saran wrap, placed on my chest. It functions as a conductor bringing maximum radiation to the skin. Other days the radiation just penetrates through me. The goal is even and consistent cooking. On non-bolus days my chest is bare. I would not have posted that picture.


By the end of my second week, I’m tired and the treated area feels hot, like a sunburn. My walk home takes a little longer.

I’d like to forget the cancer, but at the moment, it’s in my face Monday through Friday. The weekends are filled with better things, like the Hillsborough Ballon Festival.

xoxo Momo



July 17, 2007 § 7 Comments

The machine dominated the room. It looked like a lifesaver. I’m not sure what it did. Welcome to The Radiation Oncology Treatment Planning Center. Ironically none of my treatments felt like life savers. On the contrary they felt toxic and dangerous. I was still battling chemo-induced neuropathy (numbness in my hands and feet) and shortly after surgery I went head to head with debilitating jaw pain (trigeminal neuralgia). If that weren’t enough, I was prepping for lethal doses of radiation. It’s all so counter intuitive.


Measurements were taken along with x-rays at various angles. Calculations were made. I never even attempted calculus so I hadn’t a clue. I tried to crack a joke. No one laughed. They mapped the treatment area on my chest and I was told to remain perfectly still with my arms in clamps above my head for close to an hour.

This seemed very much like the kind of thing they might try at Guantanamo until of course Amnesty International intervened. Where were the human rights activists when I needed them?


There were four men in white lab coats, all busy; adjusting an arm, making a mark, taking a measurement, taking an x-ray, consulting with each other. I lay on the table with my raw scar and my one lovely right breast exposed. I was the center of attention and invisible all at once. The precise treatment areas were permanently marked with purple tattoos the size of freckles around the area formerly known as my breast.

Target #1: My remaining lymph nodes near my collarbone for 28 treatments
Target #2: My left chest for 30 treatments
Target #3: My left chest, from the other direction for 30 treamtments

When planning was completed I was gracious and smiled at the doctors and technicians as if I had a dandy time. They smiled back and posed for the picture above. They even took the photo of me below. Everyone was very nice.


Two weeks later after the team crunched numbers and programmed their machines we had a full-blown dress rehearsal. I brought my ipod and pretended it was a musical. The following Monday was the real thing. Again I brought my ipod, and Frannies palm sized moo cow for good luck.


9:30am Monday thru Friday for 6 consecutive weeks. The parking is free and they’re brilliant about getting you in and out fast. Still, I tried to weasel out of this phase of treatment. My perky self was wilting.

I use more pictures now because I am speechless.

xoxo Momo

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