Set-up Day

Last Thursday was set-up day. The day started at 8:30A and ended around 4P…I didn’t do all that much and yet I was as exhausted as I might have been if I had spent the entire day running. Most of the day I found my self visualizing where else I could be at the moment, transferring my mind away from my body. During my CAT Scan (a cylindrical tube in which many x-rays take a picture of…well, in my case, the brain), I imagined alternately being in a cool, beautiful tropical waterfall, or on the edge of a perfect white beach with the ocean gently lapping at my feet. This test is actually about 40 or so uncomfortable minutes, in which hot metallic contrast is injected to make the picture…”pop”. Very weird sensation…but I’m at the waterfall. The hard table starts to become really uncomfortable around now…but I had about 30 more minutes to go. From the scan, I have a small, very small haircut (shaving) made at the top of my hairline. This is made to apply small marker points so that they can know where to point the radiation beam. This is my only haircut for the day, but not my only marker points…as I will find out later. I lay on the table and have a mold made of my face…this is hot, moist, and claustrophobic…you can breath through your nose, but your mouth and eyes are sealed shut. I imagine that I’m receiving a fantastic facial, or alternately having heavy theatrical make-up applied (this must be what it feels like).

This mask when it’s completed will be what is strapped onto my face before every treatment I have for the next seven weeks. Next, my head is tilted back (sort of in a yoga fish pose), I’m almost positioned so that I am on the top of my head, chin up in the air…body laying on the table. This is done so that they can get yet a better picture of my brain on the scan…it only lasts about ten minutes, but that’s a while to be on the top of one’s head. Next, it’s off the doctor’s office for a very intricate physical. My neurological functions are tested…can I shrug my shoulders, lift my legs, raise my arms, walk on tip-toes? All these things I pass with flying colors. Can I follow a finger, can I grit my teeth, blow out my cheeks, stick out my tongue, swallow,…these things are somewhat challenged…but not new. I am scoped, something I’ve become used to…a long camera is passed down my nose into the back of my throat to see how my vocal chords are doing. Nothing new there, left one still paralyzed…this will not change…but still got the other one. Then it’s off to have permanent (although small), tattoos made at various points on my face and head…it’s to accurately point the beam (accuracy is way key here), during my treatments. The ink is injected with a usual syringe into these various places on my face…I imagine that I’m having botox treatments…never had them, but I’m guessing this is what it must feel like. I’m almost done, except for one last stop at a different location about a fifteen minute drive from my home base (Mass General Hospital), but also 15 minutes closer to being home. This stop is to have an MRI, with more chemical contrast injected into my body. This scan is to get a different perspective on the tumor. The MRI along with the CAT Scan is what will be used to create a three dimensional die-cut to be attached to the head of the Proton Beam to target the tumor. This took a surprisingly long 2 hours and I’m out at 4P. Long day.

Jon and I decided to eat (we hadn’t all day) before we head out on the trip back home. We decide to go to a Ruby Tuesday which is directly across from the MRI center where I just had the scan. The place is empty (too late for lunch, too early for dinner). It’s just us, and two other people at the bar. I look at these people…and can you believe it…one of the guys is Ken Howard. This may not mean much to many of you, maybe none of you…but it’s particularly amazing to me. I know this is Ken Howard because I watched the re-runs of Crossing Jordan (which takes place in Boston) the whole time I was recovering from my surgery in November and December. Ken Howard was a mainish character on that show. I know it’s stupid but watching Crossing Jordan got me through my recovery and there was Ken Howard sitting seven feet away from me. No I didn’t ask for his autograph, or tell him my “uplifting story”, it was just good enough to see him there, somehow comforting at the end of the draining day. I found out after looking him up on Google when I got home that he is appearing in a one-man show about Tip O’Neill at a regional Watertown theater (that’s right where the Ruby Tuesday was)…guess he was knocking back a few cold ones before the show…just like Tip would do.

Life is weird. Don’t you think?