CANCER ANSWER TUESDAY
by Allison W. Gryphon, Stage 3a Breast Cancer, Diagnosed April 13, 2011
Before Radiation begins each cancer fighter goes through a planning process to make sure that the radiation is targeted to exactly the right part of the body. Every cancer and every person is uniquely different. This photograph was taken on the day of my planning. I was scanned and tattooed to pin point the exact location the radiation would need to hit my body. I received 8 very small tattoos.
Here you can see all of the pen mark-ups applied to take all the needed measurements in determining where my tattoos would be placed. This photograph was taken while I was in lymphedema therapy, which is why I have the black compression sleeve on my arm, and a short time after my first reconstructive surgery, which included fat grafting and is the reason I’m wearing compression pants.
The dots in between each of the lines you see in the middle of my chest are spots where I was tattooed. The tattoos allowed the technicians to properly line up and target my radiation treatment each day through the 30 days of treatment I received. Planning is a precise and lengthy process. I was there for about two hours and was required to remain relatively still for about an hour of the appointment. My tattoos were a quick jab with a needle. It didn’t feel good by any means, but it wasn’t awful either. I received a total of 8 tattoos.
This is the side of my body where there was no cancer. No radiation was done to this side, but my entire body was taken in to consideration in the radiation planning process to ensure they targeted the cancer and did not hit anything other than what required radiation therapy.
In radiation treatment my body was thoroughly positioned and accurately aligned by the technicians, who then stepped out to the other side of this door to reduce the risk of radiation toward the medical team.
This is the bed which was configured specifically for the radiation of my breast.
Lying down in the radiation treatment bed, looking straight up at the ceiling, I saw this camera and more importantly it saw me. This is how the Radiation Technician was able to watch me and the process as the radiation was being targeted.
Outside of the treatment room, the Radiation Technician had a video image of me on one monitor and the details of my treatment on two others.
Once I was situated on the table, it took between 1 and 3 technicians to line up my tattoos with radiation machine's lasers. It is a very detailed process of lining up the body with pinpoint accuracy. It took anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes to line me up for each of my 30 treatments.
Here you can see the lasers lining up with my tattoos.
Receiving radiation took about five minutes once I was in place. I was able to breathe normally, but didn’t move. I heard the buzz of the machine, but felt nothing as it was happening. To help me get through it mentally, I was able to choose whatever music I wanted to listen to. The Rolling Stones took me through pretty much every treatment. It was surreal to say the least.
Cancer Answer Tuesdays
What can I do about metal mouth? What is a good gift for a cancer fighter? How do they do radiation tattoos? How can I prepare for surgery? What should I say to someone I work with who was just diagnosed? How am I going to get through today?
Every Tuesday, The Why? Foundation will present a small, but big cancer question and answer about fighting cancer day-to-day, hour-to-hour, minute-to-minute.
If you have a question or a helpful tip, we want to hear about it. Please email us at email@example.com.