I go every business day, I think 33 times total, for 6.5 weeks. It takes exactly 20 minutes, but there can be time spent waiting around. It's at the same time every single day, 11:40 am. That wasn't my choice but is working out nicely, because it's during Naomi's naptime so I don't miss anything.
So, I had two set-up appointments, one week apart. At the first one I laid on this pillow with my arms holding handles over my head. It was then vacuum sealed to pull all the air out of it. The result was a plastic form molded perfectly to my back and head. I lay on that hard plastic mold every time now, and it keeps my body in the exact same position it was in when the initial measurements were taken. They used all kinds of lasers and scans to figure out exactly where to radiate, and marked my body all over with a rainbow of Sharpie markers. At the end of that, three important marks were covered with clear stickers that cannot be washed, bathed, or swam in order to protect the marks. Tomorrow I will be getting tattoos in those spots so the stickers can come off and they'll always know where to line up the beams.
After the first measurements, a physics team figured out the exact angles and details that are being used to radiate the area that previously had the most cancer. In many cases, the radiation is used to kill the cancer, but in mine it helps keep it from coming back. The area of the original tumor spot is where it is most likely to return. The downsides are that once it has been radiated one can't get it again if cancer does show up there, and of course there are side effects of putting all this radiation into your body. These are not concerns of mine because I trust in the Lord. If He wanted me to go through this, He will take care of the rest!
The scans showed that my heart sits in the exact spot they need to radiate. So, they have me do a ridiculous breathing technique to move my heart out of the way and get a clear shot. Dr. Bolek (my radiologist-oncologist), and all three of his staff who have looked at it, have all remarked how amazing the difference is when I'm breathing the special way and normally. They say that with the breathing my heart just scoots over, entirely out of the way. They say not everyone can do this breathing technique, but because I have low anxiety and am willing, I do it. Maybe that's one more reason the Lord has been showing me not to fear--because the one time I sort of messed up and got stressed out, it compounded the problem and was a bit disastrous.
"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10
This breathing technique can be hard to imagine, so if you're bored, do it with me! I lay on my back, on that hard mold I described. My arms hold handles over my head, parallel to the floor. The mold was created with my head looking forward, but I have to turn it to the right during treatments and scans. That means fitting the whole side of my face into a hole made for the tiny back of my head. There's even a pointy part that pokes me.That part is painful. Once my upper body gets moved into the machine, the radiation therapist tells me when to inhale. I breathe in as deeply as I can, but only exhale a smidge. I can't release my lungs the whole time (I think the first is a scan for 3 minutes, the second is a treatment for 5 minutes).Instead, I just inhale and exhale at the upper part of my lung capacity, short little breaths. It's hard because I have to stay really calm. In that position I can feel my heart pound heavily, like it would if I was terrified. Somehow, that hints to my brain that I AM terrified, and if I don't stay calm my already-short breaths speed up like I'm panting. In case you didn't know, altogether that spells a freak out session. It brings back memories of asthma attacks. The worst time was during the second scan ever, and my legs took over, wriggling to get the rest of my body out of the machine. All the other times I've been better though.
I have heard that radiation is very lonely, because the worker is in another room, and you go into this machine that reeks of sadness and pain. How many people have cried inside that thing? How many have died from the same cancer that brought them there? Who prayed aloud for relief in there but heard only the echo of her human voice in response?
"Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD." Ps 27:14
I am not lonely in there. Maybe I'm too busy breathing, or maybe I'm too focused on living. I got my miracle! That doesn't make it any easier for other people, of course, but my view differs now. There's been a lot of heartache for people I know lately, and even though I have more compassion than before, it doesn't bring me down like I would think. I have the utmost faith and assurance that God is in control. There will ALWAYS be a happy ending, even if it is too far off for us to see and feel. At the beginning of this journey that idea bothered me so much, because I wanted to dictate my own happy ending. But with so much more trust in the Almighty I see the big picture more clearly. And for those times I can't see the literal picture, my confidence in Him assures me that it's still there; It's just not my job to see it. It's His!
"Nehemiah said, 'Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength'." Neh 8:10
It's easy to see how people let us down, and when you're in the midst of trouble you get sucked in to allow Satan to convince you they can't improve. But beyond the fact that you can always believe in miracles, you can also remember that God is bigger than humans. It doesn't matter how awesome a man of God might seem to be; he's still just a MAN of God.
"This is what the LORD says: "Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD." Jer 21:5
We aren't doing Him any favors by doing His work. It is out privilege and an honor to do it. And if we don't, God will take care of it. When all else fails and every man falls short (as we do), God can use billions of other options to get His work done. Remember King Belshazzar in Daniel 5? God sent him a message through a human hand--with no body attached to it! "Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the kand as it wrote. His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his knees knocked together and his legs gave way."