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


§ 7 Responses to radioactive

  • Nancy says:

    I have been watching for your next post for almost a month. As you know by now, you have a beautiful gift for writing. All of us know that this cancer treatment is really horrible and can be very debilitating, yet you have such wit and insight. Please continue writing in the blog format as we all love to read what you have to say and the way you say it, no matter the topic.

    You will feel much better after the radiation is over. My relative did. The combination of the chemo and radiation and Major surgery is much for the body to take, but we know you will bounce back. Your nephews and grandnephews and grandnieces love you and look forward to their Aunt Momo and Frannie visiting them at their homes as soon as she is over her machine treatments.

  • Dd says:

    I am glad you sent out a posting.
    Even though I am aware of your daily issues, I like to get the writing twist. You’re good.

    Only 22 treatments to go. yeah!

  • Lori Beizer says:

    Thanks so much for the post, Marilyn. I especially like the line about “being the center of attention and invisible all at the same time”. How true and well said. What a gift for expression you have. Sending you good thoughts xoxo, Lori

  • MRB "The Other Marilyn" says:

    Okay, so I am most interested in the tattoos. Permanent? Really? Do you plan to incorporate them into some cool Momo design later? Only you, Momo, would be equal to such a move. Any cravings? (My dad always wanted to go to Chinatown after a radiation treatment.) Do tell.

    Love, love, love,

  • Rob Rosenberg says:

    Best Wishes from Brooklyn with the continuation of your treatment.
    I know when I did my course of radiation, (with my butt in the air), the day after day treatment became a routine, and before I knew it, it was a quarter over, then a third, then half, then almost done, and then finished. It really passes quickly when you think in those terms.
    My thoughts are with you,
    Rob Rosenberg

  • Karen Waer says:

    Momo, I never tire of reading what you write. I keep thinking how amazing a person you and how much dignity your possess. I also love the line about “being the center of attention and invisible all at the same time.”
    I really, really hope this blog turns into a book. I send you lots of love. Karen

  • Paul Levy says:

    This is beautifully written. Love the pictures, too!

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