Holding Space

With Shelly Vaughn

Not What I Expected

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I was not expecting yesterday to go the way that it did. It was my first radiation treatment and I knew it would take longer than every subsequent one. I had no idea how long it would actually take and I was not prepared for how I would feel during it.

They were running behind schedule so I waited for quite a while before it even started. While waiting, I got a lovely video from our friend to make me laugh, so I’m very thankful for that. When they were finally ready, they took me back to the table and got ready to start. It was freezing in there so they gave me warm blankets to drape over as much as they could. But my chest was exposed (obviously) for a very. long. time. I laid with my arms above my head while 2 technicians and a doctor lined me up just right with lasers and machines. They marked my body up in several spots- making adjustments with a ruler down to the millimeter. Measuring, marking, taking a film, marking again, trying to decide if I should have a custom bolus (a plastic thing they lay on top of my chest that acts as an extra layer of skin). The women were as kind as could be. But the environment was cold and sterile with fluorescent lights that make any place less comfortable. My head had to be turned at a slight angle so I couldn’t move to make eye contact when they talked to me. I don’t think I’ve ever felt like such a science project. Three women talking about my body, measurements, angles, lasers… while I laid there unable to move out of that position for an hour. I tried so hard to think of positive things- listening to the barely audible music, praying, meditating, praying more. The hardest part of it was that the machine had a reflective glass that was above my head. Without being able to turn my head from its position I couldn’t do anything but stare at the reflection… the still unfamiliar reflection of 12 inches of scars across my chest. Perfect 6 inch lines on each side. I couldn’t turn away. I couldn’t pretend they were normal. I was literally faced with my new body, with background noise of clinical jargon that didn’t make sense to me. I know I’ve said that chemo and hair loss made me feel like an alien. This was different. This made me feel inhuman. I hated it. I tried to keep a good attitude about it afterward, but it was still bothering me. Until, of course, I could have time to process it and talk about it with Rob. He made me feel better… as he always does.

I had a decent night’s sleep and felt much better today. And today’s appointment was totally fine. In and out within a half hour. Time on the table was just about 10 minutes. Short enough to keep my mind on other things and not stare at the reflection. I’m sure there’s a lesson in all of this. Maybe we all need to spend more time faced with the reflections of our least favorite part of ourselves (inside or out). Maybe it’s a reminder that this is my broken earthly body… not meant to be perfect. Or maybe it was just a really crappy evening that I should stop analyzing.  I wasn’t ready for how emotional that experience ended up being. But I’m sure ready to get these next six weeks over with.

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