Radiation therapy is painless but as relentless as the wolf itself, and brings its own set of side effects. You will begin with a full plastic mask of your head, face first, a mask extending back like Nefertiti’s crown. The mask is used to clamp your head to a table, for your own safety, so there is no possibility you can move. You are lucky if you can manage to blink.
The technicians warn you that some patients may experience a flash of blue light or smell ozone and there is nothing to worry about with either effect.
With your head clamped down, the table is raised up, everyone leaves the room and a machine that looks like something from Star Wars begins to hum and then it starts to move, slowly curving over you, left to right and back again.
In my case, there was a flash of blue, inside my head, a mental flash seen behind closed eyelids. A brilliant blue, like the clear summer sky straight over head, not the lighter color near the horizon. There was a very strong smell of ozone that filled my head..
Treatments only last fifteen minutes or so. Once the machine turns off, the staff comes back in, lowers the table, releases your mask, and you sit up. Done.
No smell, no blue, all over.
A cubby is marked with your name on a piece of tape and it is here you replace your mask, grab your clothes and get dressed. After the first few treatments, which are daily, five days in a row, weekends off, you know what to expect and the bright blue flash and the smell won’t bother you any more.
To this day I can smell lightning from a mile away, even if I can’t see it. One of those little side effects I got to keep after treatment.
Side effects are another leg of the race. They vary from patient to patient and cannot be predicted or explained.
Hair loss is the most common. In my case, I was bald as a bowling ball for two years but still had to shave my legs. No one ever said cancer was fair.
Other changes you may encounter include being cold all the time, your body temperature dropping five or six degrees. Doesn’t sound like much until you think about a temperature of 102, about four degrees above average and that’s a whopping fever.
Heavy sweaters, sweatshirts and thick socks are your new best friends and quilts are worth their weight in gold.
Your tastes will likely change. Former favorites may taste like gasoline, which can be okay since they will come back up still warm. A good rug in front of the porcelain throne may help keep your fanny warm while making your donations.
There are other side effects, like I said, they vary from one to another. Survive and most will fade into faint memories. Some may remain, permanent additions to the new you. These, too, vary from patient to patient.