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My first tattoo

Neither artistic nor expressive, unless perhaps expressing “fuck cancer.”


I have three, one high on each thigh, and one center front of my pelvis. They’re all just dots: the hint of an X is the shadow of the Sharpie lines that positioned them. The tattoos will help get the radiation beam lined up, and if I ever need radiation again will permanently mark the location where I’ve already received it.

I went in this week for a quick CT scan and the tattoos. The information obtained goes to the physicists, who will calculate the best angle for the radiation, to target the tumor but miss as much healthy tissue as possible. I also now have a custom-fitted lower body form to keep me in the right position and as still as possible. Precision is hard to obtain when working with human bodies, but they come as close as possible.

They’ll start zapping me sometime next week: x-rays and a linear accelerator. This is some serious science. Every weekday, probably for 28 treatments. It only takes about fifteen minutes, I’m told. Likely side effects include diarrhea, skin burns, and fatigue. The first two should be manageable with medication, and the third by the frequent application of nap-inducing felines.

The radiation will be accompanied by oral chemotherapy, 7 days a week. Xeloda metabolizes into 5-FU in the body, and increases the effectiveness of the radiation. Chemoradiation shrinks the tumor before surgery, but more importantly reduces the likelihood of recurrence at the primary tumor site. I’m all for both of those.

The Xeloda is normally given five days a week along with the radiation, but my oncologist said, “Oh, you’re young and healthy, you can take it on weekends too.” Ugh. Though I do appreciate his aggressiveness. The most likely side effect is a lovely thing called “hand and food syndrome,” not to be confused with foot and mouth, thank you very much. The skin on your hands and feet peels off, painfully. This can be reduced somewhat with B vitamins, lots of moisturizer, and avoiding heat. That’s right, I have a medical mandate to not wash dishes because of the hot water.

So that’s next week’s fun, and more weeks thereafter. To wind up last week’s fun, my gyn-onc says that sometimes a polyp is just a polyp. Okay, she didn’t phrase it that way, but that’s the upshot. No uterine cancer, and unlikely to have Lynch Syndrome rather than plain old garden variety colorectal cancer.

Because this is radiation set-up week, I didn’t have chemo. This is the longest I’ve gone without poisoning since February third. I’m starting to feel pretty good: today I did yoga, worked all day, took the boxer on a two-mile walk, spent 20 minutes mowing the lawn, then cooked dinner and cleaned the kitchen. I’m tired now, but not unduly, and this was very much like a normal day, except that I drove to work instead of walking.

I’m very glad to get a few more days like this before I’m on to the next thing.