My cancer treatment was stepped up somewhat last week when I visited the hospital for a scan. The scan is one of several in preparation for radiation therapy or, to be precise, what's called tomo therapy. This is pretty leading-edge stuff. It was developed at City of Hope Hospital in California and has only been performed for several years. My hospital is the only one in Canada doing this therapy and according to my doctors I am only the second person in the country to undergo such treatment. Heady stuff.
My dear wife drove me to the hospital for the scan. I changed into a hospital gown and waited for them to call me. In the scan room I met about 5 different technicians, including a student technician. The procedure was explained to me by one of the technicians. The first thing they would do would take a mould of my body, from head to toe. The idea is to develop the mould so I won't move when the radiation is precisely targeted at my body. They use two canvas-like bags, one for the upper body and the other for the lower body, filled with tiny styrofoam chips and then blow it with air to form the mould. So far, so good. No problem.
The technician had said something about a mask but I'm afraid I wasn't catching it all. The room, the machine, the people - it was all a little much to take in. Until they told me to close my eyes. Okay.
Yikes! What the hell is that? It felt like warm silly putty all over my face and head. And I couldn't move. I had to keep my body and head perfectly still. Okay. I can do this. I'm a big boy. Hey, I can breath through my nose. But I've got to swallow. And my cheek itches. But I can't move. How long is this going to go on for? I could feel my blood pressure rising. I was getting increasingly claustrophobic. All I could think of was Terry Sawchuk. Remember the goalie? The first goalie to don a mask? I kept wondering "How the hell did he wear one of these things?" This has to end soon. Would you believe it went on for an hour.
Yep, this wasn't just a session to make a mould that could be used for future radiation sessions. They were doing a PET scan.
Finally, it was over. They let me go. I breathed a sigh of relief. I went and got dressed. As I opened the dressing room door to leave, who should be waiting for me but the student technician. Guess what? Now they wanted a CAT scan. Um, would I have to wear the mask? Uh, yes, we're afraid so.
Ah, but this time I saw the mask. I don't know where I got the stupid idea it was silly putty. It was actually like fibreglass strips. Ah, that's not so bad. And it wasn't. The second scan, with the mask, took about 10 minutes.
I've got to go through this one or two more times before the radiation. Using laser beams, the mould, and, yes, the mask the doctors want to be certain the cancer is precisely targeted during radiation. Those sessions, likely in about a month or so, will last a couple of hours, twice a day, for about 4 consecutive days. And you know what? I might just open my eyes.