Tuesday, April 6, 2010


One day at a time, right? I think yesterday was my "rock bottom" for radiation. I entered the building crying, and even when one of the techs rushed up to assure me that I could keep my shirt on instead of the gown, I was STILL crying when I entered the treatment room. (Which surprised and dismayed the techs, I think - in a, we let you wear your own clothes...NOW what's wrong?? way.) I was crying to the point where my breath was coming out in shuddery gasps that made it very difficult for my body to be correctly positioned and still. I mostly held my breath through the 44 seconds of radiation and then was outright sobbing like a little kid. One of the techs and a nurse calmed me down as I babbled all about my radiation fears to them, giving me tissues, kind words, and mini back rubs. Of course they added the usual disclaimers about how the rad. onc. is the only one who can fully answer my questions, and offered to let me go talk to him. I didn't want to. But I felt mostly better when I left after talking with the nurse and tech, and that got me thinking: which am I seeking more, comfort or information? Because they come from different sources, during this phase of treatment. It seems like my need for comfort & emotional support is currently stronger than my need for information, because I've noticed that during the past few days, I have reached out to the people I'm most comfortable with, knowing that they're not the ones with the answers to my radiation questions, but am still resistant to meeting with the rad. onc. despite his wealth of knowledge. (I don't mean reaching out to the nurse and the tech, necessarily - I sobbed to them by default, because they were the ones present, not because they were the ones I'd run to for comfort.)

I also realized that there is probably nothing more the rad. onc. can say at this point that would make me understand and believe that the radiation is good for me. He has tried to explain it to me, and other people have tried to explain it to me, but I just flat out can't believe/trust it - I continue to feel that the radiation is BAD. So what I've decided is that I'm going to try and let go of my need to understand it, as difficult as that is for me... and instead, I am going to trust the people who I trust who believe that the radiation is good for me. I still don't trust radiation, but I'm going to trust the people I trust's trust in it. Does that make sense?? And I will read the Tao te Ching lots and lots and lots to help me through this whole giving up control thing.

I am meeting with the rad. onc. tomorrow (it's required once a week!), and with my med. onc. on Friday, and I'm going to call tomorrow and make an appointment with a therapist. I will be okay. I really just had to have that meltdown, which I'd been staving off for such a long time. I think I wasn't allowing myself to "let go" like that, because people are always telling me how "amazing" and "strong" and "positive" and "inspiring" I am, and all of that. I get so many compliments for "keeping [my] spirits up" and I think subconsciously, I started to feel like I had to maintain that... like no way can I possibly fall prey to depression and anxiety, not when I'm Britta, the crazy silly hula-hooping happy girl who trapezes her way through cancer, in her Wonder Woman t-shirt! But you know what, there is also a Britta who sometimes cries so hard she nearly hyperventilates, and I have to be okay with that. And there's nothing like having to go to the hospital and be a cancer patient every goddamn day to trigger that meltdown.

And I still cannot make any promises that I will complete every day of radiation. But I now feel more committed to at least TRYING to. One day at a time is all I can do.


  1. You are amazing and strong and inspiring! but, you're allowed to meltdown too... and you have to believe that its OK to let people do things to you that you don't understand...

    I know it's all hard to wrap your brain around. But at least you're open to a therapist. Or at least, someone to talk to who can help you let go and let you know that THIS IS ALL OK...

    Of course it's ok. I wouldn't want to be in your shoes for the past 5 months, for sure...

    Stay strong. Or, hide under the covers eating chocolate if you have to :)

  2. Personally, I think melting down at radiation is not so bad. Nurses and techs have at least a little bit of education and a LOT of experience with the emotional side of cancer, even if it's not their official job description. "Shoulder to cry on" is in the fine print. I took a pt on her last day of radiation once and got a chance to read her discharge paper. One of the FAQs asked about how radiation doesn't feel like it's doing anything so how do you know you're better? The answer was something about how not all medicines feel like they're helping even when they are, and that your doctors will follow up with you and check to make sure your cancer-free blahblahblah... I guess it really does come down to faith. Strange, for something so scientific.

  3. i'm glad you got to let it out. it will be healing. emotions have to come out sometime! xoxo

  4. oops, that was from me--Cathryn! :D

  5. You are strong. The fact that you did break down only shows your strength. Love you!

  6. being able to accept and allow and feel your feelings is even more powerful and inspiring than being positive all the time. i really like your goal to trust the people who understand radiation better than you do. but it must be so hard to go against your intuition.

  7. Thanks, Steph, Sarah, Cathryn, Megan, Erin, and Anonymous!!

    Sarah, that's interesting that people worry about radiation being ineffective because they can't feel it/see it. Kinda the opposite for me - I KNOW it's going into me despite me not being able to feel it, and I panic about the possible internal damage it's doing to me that might not show up for months or years. At least with surgery, I can watch the incisions healing so nicely and that reassures me. Radiation is just this invisible monster in me.

    Thanks, Megan...it IS hard to go against my intuition and trust by proxy. This is kind of reminding me of elementary school, when I'd memorize math formulas without understanding them. I got good grades in math because I could produce the right answers, but I never FELT good about math because I didn't understand WHY the answers were what they were. Sixth grade, in particular - I spent the whole year badgering the hell out of my teacher to explain to me WHY a fraction multiplied by a fraction produced a SMALLER number, because multiplying means increasing and therefore the product should be larger! I could go through the motions and get the right answers but I didn't GET it, and this bothered me so much. I remember shredding an entire box of tissues all over my desk one day in anger. Or maybe my teacher's desk, I don't remember. So crazy.