In general, radiation has been, you know, cool. I have had very few side effects until the last week and the actual administration of the radiation is totally painless. I wander in without pants and wearing plastic booties over my socks, lie down on the table with it's knee pillow and foot and head rests, and the radiology ladies roll and nudge me until my x-marks-the-spot stickers line up with the lasers coming from the ceiling and walls. Then into the tube I go for a cool and relaxing semi-nap. I've been imagining that the clacking from the machine is a handful of horses running around and stomping out bulging eyed cancer cells while being kept away from my uterus by wooden fences.
This week radiation got really good. The CyberKnife is totally as radical as you could ever imagine. It is a gigantic robot arm that reminds me of Gypsy from MST3K (but all white, at least eight feet tall, and bulky - pretty good image here). The doctors are all very pleased with the planning CT and MRI matching and they seem to be kind of excited to be able to justify the CyberKnife. The justification, for the insurance company, is 'compassionate use'. Because why irradiate my whole vagina when they can use this super precision machine and spare the healthy tissue as much as possible? The alternative, as I think I wrote before, would be brachytherapy - pen-style, focused radiation that can really only point in one direction.
Ah but the CyberKnife and it's joints and tubes - marvel of engineering and much like a giant dog sniffing around to get at you from all the angles. The treatment part lasted 50 minutes, with the giant arm and nose moving around me in a kind of full-circle, two times. It moves, making a very soft machine winding noise, points at my crotch, then stops for a few moments. Then adjusts again for another angle, pauses, moves on. When it started, I had the urge to giggle a lot.
The room itself is in a bunker under the hospital, which had to be specially made to keep the high radiation from wandering around. There's a large circular recess in the ceiling lined with multi-color LEDs that fade from bright pink to red to yellow to green to blue to purple - just like in a cheesy hot tub. And to top it all off they pipe in some very synth piano/harp/clarinet/guitar plinking music. My favorite song was the one with the birds chirping in the background. They said I can bring my own music next time if I'd like, but somehow I don't think the mood could really get any better.
The big downside is the vaginal packing - ugh. Cream soaked gauze is still abrasive and this being the third time in a week, it was pretty painful. Dr. Marnitz asked if I wanted to stop and use an analgesic, but I asked if we were past halfway and she said yes - so I said we should just get through it. Friday, next session, she'll bring something to numb me a bit. Still feeling raw and sore the day after. The radiation dries things out anyway, so it's no surprise that almost three meters of gauze being rubbed along the vaginal wall is uncomfortable.
And of course I had to go pee halfway through. I thought they were almost done, because they came in to look at something and it seemed like the CyberKnife had made a full rotation. If I'd known it was only halfway I might have said something sooner. When it really was finished I was like, 'Ich muss jetzt nach toilette gehen. Jetzt." And they were like, 'do you want to put your pants on?' And I said no no no, just get me to the bathroom.
It was funny. Kind of. They told me I should have raised my hand, as instructed, and they would have given me a break. Yeah, okay, next time that is absolutely what I will do. I just thought about all the gauze and the three adjustments they made while they lined me up just right and I was like, 'I can make it through.' Poor reasoning. Never make decisions when you have to go pee - just go pee.
Today I really do feel better than I have in about 6 weeks. Still on many anti-nausea meds, but they are working and I am eating. I have the energy to think, listen, and even hold a conversation for longer than 2 minutes today. My sense of humor may be coming back. One normal radiation tomorrow and two more CyberKnifings on Friday and Monday. Can you believe it? I could cry happy tears, I'm so relieved.