Mathew finished his final radiation treatment today ~ number 28!
In honour of him finishing I want to show you what his radiation appointment looks like.
First, Kristen wheels her brother into the radiation room corridor
Turns left and into the room itself. The wheelchair is stopped right by the table so Mathew can get up and step over to the table.
Mathew protests vigorously against getting on the bed. It is a specially-constructed bed to allow the radiation to go through it but it is very hard and not comfortable for the patient. He was in so much pain today and just didn’t think he could do it.
The radiation therapy team coax him up; he is almost always one of their last patients each day (they save the best for last!). Usually Mathew is chatty and engaged but today you can see he is upset.
Once Mathew gets onto the bed then the therapists help position him into his two “cradles”, ie, the moulds that hold his legs and arms still.
Fine adjustments are made to park him just so in the moulds. For the head his hands MUST be positioned with right hand over left. Everything is exact with the radiation and when the preplanning was done and the mold created, instructions are concise as to how he is to lay. You can see the green positioning beams on the far wall.
Once Mathew is in position the table is slid forward until Mathew is under the radiation machine. Now the fine tuning adjustments are made.
While Mathew waits patiently (or not so quietly!) his body is lined up with green beams. I was taking pictures and didn’t hear the ladies politely ask me to move as I was blocking the beams. They talk back and forth when juggling Mathew into position so I don’t usually pay close attention to them… guilty!
If you look closely you will see the tiny, green dot on Mathew’s side. That is one of his 4 tattoos used to line him up perfectly for his treatment.
You can actually see the green beams converge right on that tattoo marking him in the right spot. The beam running around him pretty much marks the path of the radiation he got.
Once his body is lined up then the therapists adjust the table up or down, depending on how far he needs to be from the radiation machine itself. I don’t understand that process so won’t try to detail it here…thankfully their expertise doesn’t need my input! The two “arms” you see, one on each side of the main piece of equipment, are the CT scanners. They also turn around Mathew and scan him before every treatment, prior to the big machine doing its job.
This will be the last time this form is marked with Mathew’s name. After today it will be sterilized and plumped up and ready for the next patient who needs it. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they didn’t need it anymore because no one else needed radiation?
Once Mathew is exactly where the therapists want him, all of us leave the room and then the door glides shut. The scan is then performed and any last minute adjustments made to Mathew’s position. The door to the treatment room MUST be closed or the radiation beam will not turn on; another safety feature in place.
I can’t take pictures of the computers in the back area, but there are 3 computers and at least two to three Radiation Therapists who take a CT scan and place it over the original scan to ensure precise positioning before the radiation starts. That huge machine you saw circles around Mathew twice, radiating in a 360 degree circle around the designated areas in his body. This way the radiation going through his body is minimal but it all ends up in one bullseye and it concentrates a heavy dose there ~ where his tumour is.
He’s done! He is in pain and quite emotional about saying farewell to these women.
They were awesome with him and he enjoyed conversations and joking with them on his good days. I know he will miss them.
The walk to and from the radiation room is not for the faint of heart. Just in case you think we bolted right out of there, I took pictures of us trying to get the heck out of there!
First Kristen leaves the radiation treatment room with Mathew and turns right.
We walk past the waiting room and take the first left.
Then we walk past the radiation department which is a nice little saunter all by itself.
At the far, FAR end we take the last left which brings us down the Oncology department hallway. This is a nice little walk as well.
Once past the Oncology department and at the end of that hallway, you turn right into the pink hallway.
This hallway is long and there is nothing on the walls to help time pass by. They really need to park some wheelchairs along here because the patients are exhausted by the time they get here. We are only about 1/2 to the front entrance of the hospital!
At the far end of that hallway you hang a left then an immediate right. As you can see, Mathew is so tired and is crying that he wants out of there. Oh, and he’s pissed off that I’m taking pictures.
We’re not out of there yet though. There is yet another longish hallway and yes, sometimes by this point you wonder if you are lost and will ever find your way out…
At the end of that hallway you turn left and way, way down in the distance is FREEDOM. If you look far in the distance that is the front lobby area. Kind of looks like one of those horror movies where the distance starts to stretch out farther and farther away… just a little more now… a little more
I didn’t take a picture in the front lobby area because there were too many people milling about and Mathew was too cranky for me to putter anymore. Once In the lobby I park him by the inside front doors (with his mask on) and leave him there while I go out the front entrance, walk across to the stairs…climb a steep incline of stairs and then huffing & puffing at the top, try to remember where I parked the vehicle.
I get in the truck, drive to the parking attendant’s booth, pay ($1.25/hour) then drive to the entrance to pick up Mathew. Or I try to. The entrance is a horrible bottle neck situation with every vehicle juggling for a spot to drop someone off or pick someone up. Fortunately today Kristen was with us, so she wheeled Mathew out to the truck and helped him in so I didn’t have to leave the vehicle. She pushed the empty wheelchair back inside the hospital and once she hopped in the truck we ROARED OUT OF THERE!
I celebrated 5-1/2 weeks of radiation DONE. No more exhausting, daily excursions to the hospital. Mathew was in too much pain to really care what was going on. He was thankful we brought a pillow for him to sit on. The roads here are heaving and dropping pot holes where you least expect them. It is like a carnival ride, the tossing and bumping we endure on the way to and from the hospital. It isn’t much fun for someone in pain though.
As an aside, the Radiation department keeps the patient’s file in case it is needed again in the future. In the real world it often is. The software used is can superimpose the new radiation model using the old parameters to avoid the original area. Remember, Mathew is now at his lifetime dose of radiation for this particular area and cannot ever receive radiation there again. He can, if needed, be radiated in adjacent areas so keeping the maps is an invaluable tool for the future.
Except, let’s hope we are FOREVER done with this part of treatment!