Radiation is a little like Disney World. My first radiation session was on Wednesday. I walked into Sylvester and the two people who were going to be doing my radiation greeted me. They're as nice as can be and they explained to me how everything would work. Then we walked into the room where if everything goes as planned, "dreams come true." It's a fairly large room, with a large machine in the center of it. The machine is completely open (not like an enclosed MRI) and it moves all around me but it does not touch me at all. When I lay on the table, I'm covered with a blanket to make sure I don't get too cold. They give me a donut shaped pillow to hold for comfort and make sure the pillow on my head feels comfortable as well. I'm looking straight up to the ceiling. The ceiling has a large circular cut out that is lit with a beautiful blue color and has fiber optic lights simulating the stars. It's very relaxing and beautiful. Music is also playing in the background and they joke with me that they promise to get better music for future sessions. The music that was playing was Disney show tunes - think fantasia. I thought it was great. It really helped to set the mood. Next my mask is put on. The mask covers my entire face and shoulders and has cut outs for my eyes, nose and mouth. The mask is strapped down to the table and is used so that I don't move my head or neck during the treatment at all. Luckily I'm not claustrophobic! When we are ready for the radiation to begin, I am left alone in the room. The rooms has cameras and audio equipment in case I feel uncomfortable for any reason the radiation can be stopped and restarted once everything is ok.
During the radiation, I don't feel, taste, or smell anything out of the ordinary. I lay looking at the stars, listening to music, and occasionally I see green and red lasers. All the while I'm envisioning my tumor shrinking. When the machine moves right above me, I can see my reflection. I look funny with my mask on but I pretend it's my suit of armor. The whole thing is over in 15 minutes. It's so relaxing that I almost don't want to leave. They really do everything possible to make it as pleasant of an experience as they can.
I'm scheduled to have radiation five days a week for the next 5 weeks. So far, I've had 3 sessions. I've experienced some side-effects due to the tumor swelling a little bit. My doctor informed me that this is normal and to be expected. I've been told that by next week I'll feel like my face and neck got a sun tan and in the following weeks it will feel like a sunburn. I really have to be careful with sun exposure because my skin is extra sensitive to the effects of the sun right now. I haven't lost any of my hair yet, but I've been told that I will start to notice it in the coming weeks. I haven't really noticed any fatigue yet and I've had very little nausea. Overall - so far so good.
Radiation treatment really is like magic. Yes, the side effects may not be pleasant and it is possible that I'm in for some challenging times ahead; but if my tumor stops growing or God willing even manages to shrink, I'll always think of that room where my treatment was done as, "the happiest place on earth!"