Day 57 // X Marks the Spot


4 AM hit like a lightning bolt this morning. “Why was my alarm ringing so loudly in my ear?” I thought. Ahhh…how could I forget! Today was the beginning of a new path in this surreal journey of mine.

My matrix radiation appointment (a series of scans) was set for 8 AM. Neither food nor drink was allowed for at least 4 hours prior, thus the alarm bright and early as my peanut butter breakfast could not be skipped!

Traffic was heavy heading to the Barrett Center and parking could not be any more complicated. Arriving a few minutes late, I was first greeted by Charlotte who registered me, provided a quick tour and handed over a special parking pass to be used 28 times – my new magic number.

Taking a seat in the waiting room, I glanced at the handful of radiation patients – an elderly couple, a stout man about my age and then slowly my head turned to the toddler with hair similar to mine, peacefully sleeping in her mother’s arms. Why so young? What was her purpose? Sigh…my heart broke in two.

Jenny quickly brought me out of my vegetative state with a 20oz. bottle of water flavored with contrast – yum! While it was not the tastiest, it certainly quenched my parched mouth as I was now working on 5 hours without water.

Roberta opted to take on the task of preparing me for the IV. I asked her how “seasoned” she was at inserting a needle (yes, there have been a few unfortunate experiences) and Roberta reassured me that she was an expert. Well, so much for the vote of confidence as hour later we found out how “good” she really was – total sarcasm in that!

Upon finishing my flavored water, Jenny returned to the waiting room to prep me for the scans. Stripping from the waist down, I wrapped myself in two gowns as the air was quite chilly. Jenny then led me into the scan room – I could not help but feel uneasy.

Dr. J appeared from behind a small office within the scan room. Greeting me with a smile, my heart slowed down from its fluttering pace and a sense of calmness took over. He carefully explained what to expect from the scans, fairly straightforward. Excellent – let’s get started!

Jenny directed me to lay on the long table before my eyes and prop my legs on the blue bean bag. This bag would eventually become my “mold” that would be used for the 28 radiation sessions. My legs would be placed in the mold each time to help the technicians line up my body in order to apply the radiation accurately. Geez – does it get any more awkward than this?

After creating the mold, we were reading for the first scan. Simple – it required the long table to move in and out of this donut shaped machine. Round 1 – success! On to the next one.

Round 2 required use of the IV. Remember Roberta? Her skills were put to the test…and…she failed! Jenny attempted to shoot contrast into my IV only to have my arm explode in pain because of Roberta’s skills. Unfortunately, she did not place the needle in the vein causing my arm severe pain when attempting to shoot the contrast into it. I have never screamed as loudly as I did today. And to be honest, it felt good to do so! Of course, I wanted to ring Roberta’s neck.

Enter Terri to the rescue. She removed the IV needle, attempted not once but twice to insert a new one on the opposite arm and finally had success on third try. Now, my veins were popping off my arms today so it was a bit mystifying as to why so many issues. But at this point, my focus was on finishing so I could eat! Keep moving forward, right?

The next two scans were finished in record time. Jenny then played tic-tac-toe on my body by placing 4 lovely X’s on it – two on my tummy and one on each hip. These tattoos will be with me for the next 6 weeks. Yet another reminder of the journey – more battle wounds.

Exiting quickly from the scan room, I was desperate for a bathroom, water and the protein pancakes waiting in my lunch sack. But as I walked swiftly towards the private elevators, my eyes caught the toddler’s mother still in the waiting room.

With the image of the little girl etched in my mind, I could only think of how blessed I’ve been to have lived 46 wonderful years. And with the elevator to myself I prayed for the toddler – that she too would be blessed.