The panel on the right side and the instrument on the left are together an X-ray machine that takes images 1x/week to make sure I've not changed too much (losing weight for example) and that I am indeed in the exact same relative position as the week before.
First of all, the people here are very much interested in you as a person. My conversations with my doctors are just that - conversations. Same with the other staff. I'm sure it's very deliberately part of the corporate culture. As someone else pointed out, that very culture probably attracts that type of person too, so that the two are ideally suited to each other. And secondly, I see each test, blood draw, biopsy, MRI, radiation treatment, etc. as part of MY attack on TLB. Not things that are happening to me, rather tools I am employing to actively seek and destroy the tumor. So, the Varian Trilogy 2110 may look intimidating to some, but I see it as my big, strong friend walking down this dark alley with me. Yeah, I'm glad for my big, strong friend.
OK, OK. Back on track. So, I report to MD Anderson, check in and head down to my usual Waiting Area F. They like to put you on the same machine with the same crew every day, so the exact same thing happens each and every time. I take off everything from the waist down and climb up on to the table. Remember, I'm short, so my climbing is undoubtedly graceful. Not. The table is fitted with different attachments for different patients. Mine is a belly board with a cutout for my belly. Remember, having my guts falling down and forward is part of their protection, as is the full bladder. Then they turn off the lights and 2 or 3 people use green laser guides in conjunction with the artwork they've drawn all over my hips and rump to position me down to the millimeter. They tell you to "lay heavy." That means don't try to help them as they're moving you around; they're making really fine adjustments and if you help them, you'll over correct and while you don't end up in a ditch, they have to kind of start over. Once they have you in position, they turn the lights back on, exit the room and shut this lead door that's at least 8" thick. Then the treatment begins.
The entirety of treatment takes about 3 minutes. One stop overhead, one stop on my right side and one stop on my left and I'm done. Unless my bladder is overly full. Then you can guarantee that there will be a student trainee in the control room and they're showing them things on the control panel. You can tell they're teaching because:
- It takes longer, and
- the mouse pointer on any one of the 6 big monitoring screens starts to wander around and hover over different things while I lay there mentally exclaiming, "This is not a good time for teaching! I have to pee!"
So, I told you I have a few minutes in time-out while the machine does it's thing. In studying what I can see while simultaneously not moving at all, I've noticed several things over on my left. I ALWAYS lay with my head looking left. On that wall is the bank of various screens showing various things during my treatment. Below that is a countertop with sundry goods, a wash sink and the like. One day, I was looking at the counter top and noticed a bright red box (NOTICE: the following may not be suitable for all viewers, although by this time you should know that anything can show up on this blog!). The counter is a bit far for great detail but I thought I could make out the word "Trojan." I'm squinting and trying to focus better and sure enough, it's an economy size box of Trojan condoms.
Showing a more characteristic lack of restraint, I am going to share bit of fun I had with the techs last week while my good friend Debbie was here. (Aside: Debbie, I'm sorry. She told me this was NOT for public consumption. She has good judgement. I do not.) Her daughter Meghan had bought some glow in the dark temporary tattoos for me. I gleefully had Debbie apply one and hopped up on the table expecting much fun. They unfortunately did not lift my shirt high enough. I had to say, "Is my shirt in your way? No? I think it is. Lift it." They did and laughter ensued. We even shut the lights back off so they could see it glow. They reported that the teeth especially glow quite nicely. Again I warn you, may not be suitable for all viewers. But it's funny.