Sketch diary: it's harder than I thought
I am two and a half weeks into a six week course of radiation therapy, to zap the remaining cancer cells in my body. The course I am doing now is the type where a highly localized beam is aimed at my abdomen from all sides of my body. Every weekday, an ambulance-taxi, or The Guy, drives me to the radiotherapy clinic in Avignon, which is about an hour away from where we live, and back. Each session lasts about 10 minutes, and is completely painless. It’s the side effects that are the problem.
I know that radiation therapy is much, much kinder to the body than chemotherapy is. Still, it’s harder than I thought it would be. The biggest problem is the chronic diarrhea. It usually comes in the evening or at night, and sometimes it keeps me up until 3 or 4 AM. This doesn’t help the other big problem, the constant fatigue. I usually wake up feeling more or less ok, but by the time I’ve done the normal morning things like brushing my teeth and taking a shower, I am totally wiped out. I usually sleep in the car all the way to the clinic and back. Then in the afternoon I may have about 2, 3 hours of alertness before I’m lying down again. My concentration, any ability to focus on a complex task, is almost completely gone. I also have very little appetite - which is a problem when you write about food.
(Update: on Friday, I asked the oncologist how much radiation I am being exposed to during the course of therapy. The answer: 45 Gy or 45 Sv (sieverts). Take a look at the the xkcd radiation graphic for a general idea of that what is. That’s about 1.5 Sv per day, or one and a half yellow squares. It is pinpointed at a specific location on my body of course. But wow, it’s a lot. No wonder I’m not feeling too good.)
I have been keeping a sort of sketch journal about the way I’m feeling. Here are a couple of excerpts. These are just quick scribbles done in a few minutes so they kind of suck as drawings, but they convey more than I can do with words at the moment. I also didn’t scan them (well the burglars took our scanner so I don’t have one at the moment), I just took pictures of them. Anyway.
This page has a very inaccurate sketch of how the radiation machine thingy looks like on top. I lie on a stainless steel table, on a styrofoam mold of my body that keeps me in position. The round thing rotates around my body into 4 positions. The middle sketch is of me when I’m healthy, always curious, usually with a camera or notebook in my hand. (Yep that’s a camera.) The bottom pic is me now. It’s pathetic.
This is how I spend most of my day now, either whimpering and lying down or napping, or wondering if my hair is getting thinner because of the radiation or just general bad health. (It’s probably the latter. Plus I need a new haircut.)
And this is me, at the bottom, wondering when I will be able to go to an onsen (hot springs) in Japan again. Hopefully soon.
Drawing these has been strangely cathartic, in a different way from writing.