I should first start by saying that radiation is not a good time (and yes, I am fully aware that no one in their right mind would think it was). Now please know that I recognize that my trips to the infusion room for chemo were not exactly a trip to Disney, but in comparison radiation was a bit like vacationing in a frozen tundra. It might be a slight exaggeration because when you take a vacation you don’t have to leave an come back every day. Imagine if you did? If it really was the frozen tundra it would be over a five hour flight from Boston at least if I opted for northern Alaska, so I suppose a thirty five minute trip to Pittsfield is far more feasible. However, after four weeks of back and ‘forth-ing’ it sure as hell feels like a five hour drives especially on the way back. Regardless it was something I had to do, Z and Dr. J did not give me an option for my travel plans and they failed to mention what I would need to pack. I hate that. I’m a planner and like to have everything at my disposal when I need it. Good thing I’m a quick study and learned fast that I would need a sweater to don over my terribly unfashionable johnny, because the frozen tundra is really quite drafty. In addition to my sweater, I need lots of things to keep me occupied during my wait between machines. Turns out the frozen tundra is lacking on amusement park like activities. I have to say I was terribly disappointed that there were no tea cups in the waiting room. There was a tv in the front waiting room, but it was always on some odd channel and they certainly didn’t have the usual amenities like pay per view. So despite some great conversations with other vactioners (patients and their care givers) I abandoned the front room for the back waiting room that somehow seemed a little brighter and quieter (no tv). I knew after day two that I needed reading material, maybe bring along some work (some vacation), and my cell phone to waste time on facebook and pintrest. I also often brought snacks. I’m still on a school schedule like when I was a kid, thus i need the after school snack to keep me happy until dinner. So I left work everyday two hours early for the first week and then twenty minutes for the duration of my vacationing and headed down to Pittsfield where my ten minutes of radiation turned into a two hour stay each day.
Now a four week vacation sounds lovely, but unfortunately like I said radiation is no picnic and certainly lacks luxury accommodations. A bed with some down pillows and chenille comforter would have been much appreciated. Clearly I’ve given it some thought. Because when they tell you fatigue is a side effect of radiation they actually mean it. They don’t however tell you that it feels like you could fall asleep on your feet, at your desk in between class, pretty much anywhere anytime and it just sort of comes on. And while vacation is about much needed R and R the majority of radiation vactioners are still trying to work during the day and can’t nap when the exhaustion sets in. I think that may be the hardest part. Feeling tired from the drive, the radiation, the wait, the process. And four weeks honestly feels like forever even when my family and friends count down…Like here I sit with two days left and it still seems like forever. Radiation fields forever.
I have to say I did get home from this vacation with some of the usual vacation annoyances like a sore throat, unfortunately from a radiation damaged esophagus instead of a weeks worth of screaming on thrill rides and fun umbrella drinks but a sore throat the same. (I did get some really awful tasting syrup to numb it so I could swallow and enjoy my favorite foods. I told the docs that there were no worries concerning the food situation. As long as my tastebuds were in tact, I would continue to eat albeit a bit slower than usual but no less.) I also got a killer sunburn in a pretty weird pattern. It reminded me of the time Steph misapplied her sunscreen and the burn was oddly positioned on a sections of her legs. Mine is located on my chest, neck and back in an odd pattern from the radiation fields. Hopefully it will fade to a nice tan. My dad claims it is the most expensive tanning places ever for a multitude of reasons.
So while my radiation vacation was not without flaws and felt like forever, it did offer up some good things. Hopefully it did its job and eradicated the stubborn tumors in my neck and mediastinal area. I thoroughly enjoyed the knowledge, expertise, and compassion of my primary concierge Jorge. He explained the process, worked with my schedule to make it more convenient for me, and was always kind and considerate throughout the process. I will miss seeing him on a daily basis. I would highly recommend him to anyone that unfortunately has the frozen tundra on their itinerary. I forgot to mention that I was given warm blankets to ward off the cold once in the radiation rooms. It was one of the only occurrences where I was quick to accept the warm blankets. I also met some wonderful people during my stay who helped pass the time with good conversation. So while my stint at radiation felt like a lifetime. I do only have two days left and then I have a real vacation. Six whole weeks without chemo, radiation, anything other than some routine Z time. Some time off sounds good to me.