This weekend, the HOTY (a/k/a Husband of the Year) and our daughter Finally Five came for a visit. I was out of my mind excited to see them! Joy of joys.
The thing that Finally Five was most excited about was not the salt water taffy in Sausilito (though that did get some squeals) or the Golden Gate Bridge (renamed the “Red Gate Bridge”). The thing that made her the happiest was the fact that she was invited to come to my radiation appointment with me.
Yes, you read it correctly: Finally Five came to radiation.
As you may recall, we have been open, honest and (developmentally appropriately) candid with her. Finally Five has been fascinated by treatments since almost the moment we told her about the diagnosis.
Because I had my surgery in Los Angeles (90 minutes away from home), she was unable to come to the hospital. She also did not see me receive chemo because children are generally not allowed in chemo clinics (because of the bug load-i.e., infection-that they carry which is NOT good in a room full of immunocompromised people).
Fast forward to radiation (though there was NOTHING fast about getting here!).
As you may recall, the radiation technicians (who are exceptionally fabulous!) encouraged me to bring a sticker (or two) for the radiation machine – so that I could think about Finally Five as I get my treatment.
It’s kind of funny, by the way, to lay on the table and see gobs of stickers on the multi-million dollar machine. I love the paradox of it all.
Anyway, I told the technicians that Finally Five was coming to town (and how excited that I was about it!).
They said: Bring Her!
I said: REALLY?
They said: Absolutely!
I said: That sounds absolutely fantastic. However, you must know that there is no 1/2 way with this kid. If I bring her, she is going to have to come in. See the machine. Ask questions. And sit with you while I get zapped. And watch me on the monitor. And possibly work the remote on the table. (I quickly reminded them that I would fully prepare her so that she would be absolutely fine.)
They said: Absolutely! Bring her!
When I told Finally Five that she would get to come to radiation, she was ecstatic. As in jump up and down excited (Silver Lining).
So that she would know exactly what to expect, I told her every detail of the radiation process. From start to finish:
- We will leave the car with the valet.
- I will scan my name badge under a machine to let the technicians know that I am here for my treatment.
- We then go into the locker room.
- I will take take off my shirt and put my clothes in a locker. (She put her jacket in her own locker.)
- Then, I’ll put on a gown. (I let her pick which gown I would wear.)
- After that, we wait in the waiting room for the technician.
- When the technician comes in to get us, we will follow him back to the radiation room.
- In the radiation room, I will show her the machine and where I put the stickers that she gave me.
- I will then take off my gown and put a cloth over my breasts. I remind her that it is ok for these technicians (including a man) to see me without a top on because they are taking care of me and giving me my treatment.
- Then, I’ll lay on the table and put my hands over my head.
- They will uncover my right breast (where the cancer was/is) so that it can get the radiation.
- Then everyone will leave the room.
- Finally Five will go into the room where they watch me get the radiation (for about 2 minutes). All she will see is me laying on a table. The radiation is invisible.
- After the radiation is done, they all will come back into the room.
- I will get off the table and go to get dressed.
I gave her the entire scenario the night before treatment. We then talked about it over breakfast the day of treatment. I asked her to repeat every step. Which she did, nearly verbatim. I’m always pleasantly surprised by the capacity of a young child’s memory, especially when highly motivated to do something!
I asked if she had any questions. She said that she had none. She did clarify, however, that it is ok for these technicians to see me without a top because they are taking care of me.
Finally Five gave me both Fancy Nancy as well as Winnie the Pooh to put on the radiation machine. She was incredibly happy to see them right where I told her they would be.
Having Finally Five go to radiation was a Silver Lining for so many reasons. She was so happy…
- To be included in my treatment process.
- To meet the people taking care of me. When the technician came in to escort us to the treatment room, she hopped up, introduced herself and shook hands. (Introductions with a firm handshake are big in our family.)
- To see her stickers on the radiation machine.
I cannot over emphasize the fact that in childhood (& probably most of adulthood), imagination is far worse than reality. Which is why the HOTY and I have included her on every step of the diagnosis and treatment.
At the end of the weekend, we had a dialogue about faith (started by Finally Five). I asked her what faith means to her. She summed it up so beautifully:
Faith is knowing that in a little while your cancer will be gone forever.
– Finally Five