Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Radiation Masks: Now What?

There’s the beginning of an strangely interesting and provocative discussion on the ABTA’s Inspire website revolving around what to do with that radiation mask after you’ve been radiated (or blasted or gamma rayed, etc.). Here’s the link: http://www.inspire.com/groups/american-brain-tumor-association/discussion/radiation-mask-decoration/

In some ways it could be a survival merit badge – “Yippee! I got blasted and survived.” At the same time, I’m sure some survivors look and it and just get depressed as it reminds them about their tumor and everything that went with it.

This is a picture of me wearing my radiation mask moments before being zapped. I thought you might enjoy initial reaction to being fitted for my mask (excerpted from Chief Complaint: Brain Tumor):  

“I was scheduled for my radiation blast. I say blast, because The Good Doctor, in consultation with the radiologist, decided that instead of five days of radiation, I should have one blast of five days’ worth of radiation. As I understood it, the five-in-one-blast had a better track record of preventing reoccurring tumor growth.

As soon as I heard this, I immediately thought of the original Uncle Fester from the Adams Family TV show. If you haven’t seen it, Uncle Fester could turn on a light bulb just by popping it into his mouth. Don’t think about it too much, it’s a sight gag.

I tried not to think about the radiation and then, on a fine summer morning, Barbara hustled my lazy butt over to the hospital for my radiation mask fitting.

In order to make sure that only The Blob was radiated and not, for example, my ability to play the trombone or killer beer pong, I needed to hold my head very, very still during the treatment. Since radiologists stay up nights worrying about things like sneezing during beaming, the remedy is to custom-build a face mask that will keep your head in a locked down position and as still as possible. So a week or so prior to my radiation blast, I went to the hospital and had a warm, pliable white plastic mesh form molded to my face.

The resulting face mask had six pre-drilled holes in it so that the technicians could, literally, bolt me down to the table to keep me from moving, fidgeting or picking my nose.

As soon as I put the mask on, I thought I looked like Anthony Hopkins from the movie, Silence of the Lambs. I wanted to wear the mask on Halloween because I thought it would scare the snot out of kids who were trick or treating.

(My wife) Barbara, of course, said “you can’t wear that; you’ll scare the snot out of little kids.” So I didn’t.”

If you want to read more, here’s a link to my website: http://www.chief-complaint.com/ 
And if you have picture you want to share, send them to me c/o John@chief-complaint.com.

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