reads the sign on the door as I enter...no kidding. Enter with caution. Enter with fear. Enter with awareness. Enter with strength. And despite the overwhelming urge, do not run...especially in that gd awful gown.
It's what I battle every single day. For some radiation is completely tolerable. For me, it's a torture chamber full of exposure, humiliation and anguish. It's an active battle between me and cancer - it's loud, it's bright, it's destabilizing.
After I settle on the table, I begin to count. I know now it takes 150 seconds to get in position. 81 seconds for the first machine to begin. 24 seconds until the alarm sounds...and this is where it begins. Radiation techs scrambling to get the hell out of a room that will soon shoot radioactive poison into the air and there I am. The only thing in between the radiation and the cancer is me and I am defenseless on the table. 22, 23, 24, 25...it's almost there. There are three shots in every session and one is nearly over. Pause. I am deep breathing, I am willing the fear away, I am on the beach with my kids. Alarm. Machines move into place again. Laser beams light up...again...1, 2, 3...I am with Joseph at our favorite restaurant, I am wondering if I have paid my mortgage, 9, 10, 11, 12, I am planning Ava's bat mitzvah, I am losing 10lbs, 22, 23, 24. Done. Last one. Machines shift, alarm sounds, I remain still...again, I am mixing margaritas in my head, I am playing frisbee with my son...14, 15, 16, I am thinking about my day, wondering if I can get everything done, Ava needs a lacrosse stick, 21, 22, 23...almost there. I am counting the seconds until I can be done with this and hoping the weekend is kind. 25, 26, 27...running over a few. I am aware. Alarm sounds. Done. I want to ask why it ran over three seconds but maybe I missed counted, maybe I got three for the road. I don't care - don't talk...slows down the exodus I plan every day out of there.
I am up, off the table and fully dressed in less than 5 minutes. I am out of the clinic and nearly in the parking lot in 3. I am in the car, radio on and heading to the grocery store...trying to be normal. Trying not to feel like a victim. Trying to feel powerful. Trying to ignore that cancer has me yet again exposed, on my back, after taking my breast and 14 months of my life, it takes my peace, my sense of normalcy, my fight. I will keep going...this is never in question but there are days when I am tired of fighting. I am tired of going toe to toe with a disease that taunts me with my future, my children and my peace of mind.
I curl up with Joseph at night and pretend I am not scared to death he will brave this family and world without me and yet I also fear I will win but be so scarred and battle fatigued, I am permanently changed. Damaged somehow. Like an athlete who has lost her legs.
But I do know the longer I stay aware of this and of my battle fatigue, the faster I gain footing back into the ring. You see what cancer can't take from me is really...well me. I get it...I know what I am about and I am strong enough to admit when I am beat down. Radiation will fuck with my head everyday for the next five weeks and I hate every second of it. But y'know what? My children will see my legacy. That in the face of total adversity, I fought and scrapped and made cancer my bitch even when I couldn't look it in the eye.
Joseph and my children are who I see in all my moments of fight, of weakness, of victory...they aren't just my reasons for living, they are all my reasons. Joseph has always said "we"...I love the "we"...it means are in this together but late at night, I know it's me. It's me who lives and it's me who dies but the we keeps me going...especially when the me is just too tired.