Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Tattoo Parlor

That's the size of my tattoo.  Is there a Philly Ink?  Sign me up.
Yesterday was a day of doctor appointments.  First of the day was with the official dr. for the school district of *****.  After braving the suddenly freezing cold temps early on a Monday morning, I managed to find a place to park near an intersection which shall not be named, but which is known for having a bad parking situation. 

Of course not having the "updated" paperwork they wanted me to have brought with me (without telling me as such), the patient care coordinator at Dr. Henry's office faxed it right over and I was ushered back into an exam room.  Who knew that the district had exam rooms??

Eventually the doctor came in, and I told her an abbreviated version of my story (which she would've already known had anyone cared to check into my medical records - which I had already given them full access to).  She was (surprisingly) sympathetic and said she wouldn't need to see me until February, unless I felt up to going back to work before then.

I thought I would feel vindicated after having shown these officials my scars and pale scalp.  But there was nothing even remotely physical about the exam, aside from the fact that I was there in person to tell highlights of the past 6 months.  I left almost feeling depressed.  A tiny piece of me wanted them to call me a fraud and say someone had gotten this all wrong.  Go back to work, Lady!  You're not sick!  But she didn't.  She looked at me with these sad eyes and said I was just a baby, the same age as her son.  Yeah.

Later in the day, I had my radiation planning session at Abington.  I arrived a few minutes before 1 pm and discovered a former co-worker was also there for her own appointment.  Wonderful to see her, but how annoying that it had to be there, of all places.  After we started to catch up, I was called back to go in (they stay on schedule here, dude) and a warm, smiley technician led me to the locker room area.  Permitted to keep on my new (and warm) boots, I changed into a double gown (one open in the back, one open in the front) and waited in the women's waiting area for her to come back and get me.

I chatted it up with a few other women there (and bragged about seeing LZ on the cover of one of the magazines laid out), but then was quickly retrieved and brought back to a treatment room.  The 2 women who worked there introduced themselves while they busily prepared all of the materials they would need for the session.  One asked me my full name and birthdate (as they always do) and then took my picture.  "Smile!" she said, as she clicked, then turned the screen around to show me.

"That's me," I replied, "At least for today."  Since after all, it was the me with no hair, barely-there eyebrows and a rather pale complexion.  They instructed me kindly on where to sit and eventually, how to lay atop this weird blue plastic-covered mat, which was going to make a mold of my upper body.  The mold would help to ensure I was in the same position for each treatment.

So how does a blue mat become a mold?  That is a question I can't answer.  However, I can tell you it smelled strongly of dead fish as the inside of the mat heated and bubbled up around my arms and neck.  I spent the next few minutes maintaining this position (arms held over my head) while the ladies mushed and pushed the mat to make sure all the innards worked correctly.

Next was time for scans.  If I remember the order of events correctly, the technicians put some stickers on my chest, then left the room to watch the images of the scans as they were taken.  Now this scanner had a much bigger donut than the CT scanners I've been in before - I think it's more of a multi-tasker, seeing as how it doses radiation treatments PLUS takes pictures (again, I think).  I lay there for 10 minutes or so as I was zoomed in and out, until the ladies came back, marked me with 3 magic marker x's and then pricked me with a very sharp needle in three spots, to make (black, not blue) tiny new freckles permanent.  These 3 marks are done for leveling purposes, again, to help ensure that your body is in exactly the same position for every treatment.  They will have to program the machine to dose radiation out to specific coordinates that correspond to however your body is positioned the very first time.

I was surprised at how much the 3 tiny needle pricks hurt (do tattoos hurt this much?  People are c-razy!).  I got up from my blue mold, the ladies wrote all of my essential info on it in black sharpie, handed me an appointment reminder card, and they wished me a happy holiday (I won't be back until after Thanksgiving).

I returned to my locker, changed back into my non-hospital attire, and went back to the valet to pick up my car (I paid more for parking than I did for the appointment).  I left dazed and a bit nauseated.  After having a wonderful weekend, distracted by being away from home and pretending my life was normal, I had a rude awakening back in Cancer Land.



  1. It seems as though all awakenings in Cancer Land are rude. Here's to eventually awakening together and making them that much less rude.

  2. Mia - Yes, tattoos really do hurt that much, but not the entire time because your body goes numb and hopefully the artist does not stop for too long otherwise you get the feeling back and the pain comes with it again.

    I love your descriptiveness of the mat, "tattoos" and the whole experience. You make it sound funny, when the whole experience is just an awful uncomfortable time.

    Dan - you're so sweet. Cancer Land will be over (someday) and you will have your "wife" back :).