Ever wanted a tattoo? I know I have. I’ve thought about it frequently as a matter of fact, but I’ve never followed through. The thing is… I’m a chicken and can’t handle pain. I once watched a sorority sister get her first tattoo (lasted 3+ hours) and she had tears – big tears. She told me it felt like a cat scratching a really bad sun burn – yeah, that’s probably not for me.
Even though I probably want a tattoo more than Scott, he actually got one first. Three to be exact. Three blue dots. Three dots the size of a freckle. They are lined up perfectly across his chest to create a line for his radiation. One is on his left shoulder, one on his right shoulder and one perfectly centered on his chest. You see, when you have radiation you must lay in the exact position each time. These tattoos helped the radiologist line him up each radiation visit.
You’re obviously not allowed to be in the room while someone is getting radiation, but they did let me come back one time to watch how they set him up. It was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever seen. Scott was strapped on a table, had his head held in place with a netted mask that was sculpted just for him, had a type of goggles on his eyes and could not move – at all. Talk about a horror scene. I would have been panicking, but being on the table is probably less scary than seeing your loved one strapped, unable to move with this creepy mask on his face. Seriously, google it, it makes me anxious just looking at it. Thank goodness I couldn’t stay in there to watch. I know that sounds selfish, but my anxiety was through the roof and we didn’t need that in the room.
You may be asking, “why was he wearing goggles?” I’m glad you asked! Since Scott’s radiation was being done on his chest – the heaviest dose aimed at the chamber that holds his heart – he had to concentrate on holding his breath. You see, when you hold your breath your heart moves up and when Scott’s heart “moved up” it was mostly out of the range of the radiation. MD Anderson has an advanced radiation machine that they can map out exactly where the radiation needs to hit and it doesn’t go anywhere other than where it is told. In Scott’s case the radiation beam only came on when held his breath and his heart was out of the way.
The goggles had a screen that showed a line and a box. Every time Scott held his breath the line would go into the yellow box and stay there until he couldn’t hold it any more. The radiation beam ONLY came on when the line was in the box – hence the importance of the goggles. Scott was a champ at this apparently. His radiologist told him he held his breath so long that his radiation sessions were super quick, quicker than most.
Scott laid perfectly still – in the same position – getting beamed with radiation probably 10 minutes a day at most. He says the setting up took longer than the actual radiation, but he had to do this 28 times. 28 days of receiving something that can cure you as much as it can hurt you – it was a risk we had to take.