Sunday, February 1, 2009


I have never minded being alone. Maybe it's because I'm an only child, but I enjoy my solitude, and prefer not to spend time in large groups of people. I'm used to going almost everywhere by myself, and I like it that way.

This being said, I have never felt as alone as I did during certain times during my treatment; to the point where it was completely frightening and overpowering, and I just wanted it to be over.

The six weeks of radiation treatment was one example: You're physically overwhelmed by the equipment, the feeling that you've lost any control of your fate, and something that has the power to kill you is being beamed into your body, in hopes of just killing the "bad" cancer cells. And, unlike the chemo patients whom I would walk by on my way to treatment, no one can hold your hand while you're lying on that table, which makes you feel even more alone. When the techs all leave the room, shut the door, and dim the lights, it's just you and the big, futuristic (yet oddly scary) machine.

The many scans and MRIs were also isolating and fear-laden. Although I'm a small person, I'm extremely claustrophobic, which only made things worse. I knew that having these procedures was to my benefit, but it certainly didn't get any easier.

The brain MRI was primally terrifying on several levels: having to be placed all the way into "the tunnel" of the machine (I now have an enhanced fear of ever being in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, an iron lung, or using a tanning bed!); wearing a space helmet-like contraption, which increases your sense of being penned in and unable to breathe; strapping down your body at strategic points, so you can't move and ruin the imaging. Worst of all was only being able to see outside of the machine via a mirror positioned directly above your eyes, inside the helmet.

I was utterly panicked that: the building might lose electricity; I'd somehow be trapped forever inside the machine; the staff would forget that I was there, and leave for the day. I have spoken with other cancer patients who also had brain MRIs, and they felt the same level of abject terror during the procedure. If I ever needed to have this done again, I would ask to be medicated beforehand - without question. Sedate me, please!

The treatments, and the heightened sense of isolation during them, served to make me realize that I alone had the power to find my inner core of strength, and to use it in responding to my situation. Others can give you comfort, advice, hugs, but YOU have to find the resolve to get yourself through the bad times - to reach the good times, when you will no longer feel like "a patient" every day. And, that day will come.

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