Radiation!

The first day of radiation, I get up before six. I’ve chosen one of the earliest available time slots: 7 a.m. Better to just get the radiation out of the way, I figure, and get on with the day. Why should radiation get pride of place in my schedule?

We’ve only got one car, which transports our kid to school at that hour, so I’ve decided to cycle the eight miles to Mt. Zion and back every day. I’ve got to start somewhere getting rid of the chemo-steroid-Chardonnay-butter weight.

Luckily the trip to the hospital turns out to be mostly downhill. You notice subtle topography far more on a bike than in a car. The city lies almost quiet at 6:30 a.m. Traffic hasn’t really gotten heavy yet. I can hear the birds calling and smell the flowers during the mile or so of the route that goes through Golden Gate Park and the Panhandle.

I make it to UCSF Mt. Zion in about 20 minutes, about the same amount of time it takes by car, and half the time public transit requires. I take the elevator down to the hospital basement. The receptionist isn’t even in yet, so I just let myself into the women’s locker room. I take a striped robe out of the dressing room bench, peel off my cycling jacket, t-shirt and Jogbra, lock my clothes in a locker, and take a seat in the waiting room.

Within just a couple minutes, one of the technicians comes to get me. No need to call my name. Who else would be here at this hour? I stop by the computer, recite my name and birth date, walk into the treatment room, do the robe-pillowcase switch, climb on the table, raise my arms above my head. The stereo system plays Beethoven as the technician raises the table and lines up my tattoos with the lasers. Then, she retreats.

Click, buzz, whirr. Rotate. Click, buzz, whir. All the planning and computerizing behind us, it’s over in less than five minutes. Then back to the dressing room I go.

One down. Twenty-nine to go.

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About leftbreast

I have had breast cancer. I was diagnosed at 47, and am now 49. I have finished "active treatment," two surgeries, chemo, radiation, monoclonal antibodies. These days, I only take a drug to suppress my uptake of estrogen, since my tumor was highly reactive to that hormone. I have been married to my husband Pete for 21 years. I have a stepdaughter, Maureen, 30, and a daughter, Erin, 10. I've been a freelance magazine journalist for 20-plus years, covering everything from Chinese foreign policy to Catholic nuns to endangered species. I have had a great life. I have lived in Asia and all over the United States. I have spent nights with tree-sitters in Oregon and with astronomers at the Mauna Kea observatory in Hawaii. I've been to a cocktail party on the poopdeck of a British destroyer docked in Shanghai. I've taken the bus to Tibet, and tramped through the cloud forests of Panama with biologists. A magazine sent me on a raft trip down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon; another sent me to cooking school for a week. I have spent time with celebrities, presidents and heroin dealers. I love my work. I have a loving, supportive family and more friends than I probably deserve. I have had the space and time to camp, ski, cycle, garden, cook and spoil my pets (an Australian shepherd, a German shepherd and a tabby cat). If it all ended tomorrow, I would have to say that it has been a really, really good ride. When I was in thick of treatment, I was simply fighting for more time. Now, I'm trying to connect the experience of cancer with the rest of my life, with the time that's been won. I hope the cancer never comes back, but if it does, I'll be ready. That's what this blog is about.
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