I have now completed 22 radiation treatments (!) and have my red badge of courage* to show for it - the skin on my chest is burnt and blistering at this point, and the left side of my throat is sore where the radiation field crosses it. But I only have 6 more treatments to go!
And in a strange turn of events, I will be sorry to see my treatment come to an end. I won't miss the radiation itself, but I will miss seeing my radiation crew - the group of friendly faces that I've seen every day over the last 5 weeks. It includes all of my radiation techs - Ron, Ryan, John, John, and Scott, plus nurse Kathy, Dr. MacDonald, and Paul at the front desk. And then there are the other cancer patients that are on the same schedule as me - prostate, breast, and pediatric cases - we sit in our hospital johnnies and make small talk every day. When one finishes treatment, we all go watch as they ring the celebratory bell (more on that later), and clap and cheer for them. The strange circumstance of our ill health brought us all together, and in the most uncomfortable of situations we are collectively able to find comfort, and often even laughs.
I've made a life-long friend in my fellow patient, Janeen. We tend to be scheduled back-to-back, and kill time together when they're running behind or the machine is broken (yes...that's happened twice). Here we are after a much-needed spa visit over the weekend:
I also made it out to a special event last week - the annual Kenneth B. Schwartz Compassionate Healthcare Dinner. Ken Schwartz was a healthcare attorney in Boston who got diagnosed with advanced lung cancer at the age of 40. He was treated at MGH, and although he eventually succumbed to the disease, he was so moved by the compassionate care he received there that he created an organization to nurture compassion in healthcare across the country. The Schwartz Center now has a presence in 300 hospitals nationwide, where they facilitate rounds to educate physicians on the importance of providing compassionate care, and each year they host a dinner to recognize those practioners who embody the idea of it. My employer, PARTNERS+simons, has worked with the Schwartz Center for years, and some of my coworkers actually designed the event invitation below. It was wonderful to attend the dinner this year, after having been on the receiving end of this type of care, not only from my radiation team but also my oncology and surgical teams before them. It really does make a difference when your medical team sees you as a person, and not just a patient.