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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Radiation: DONE!

A linear accelerator -- sounds like something out of Star Trek -- but that's the machine that is used to irradiate tumors. Bizarre.

There's a whole subculture down in the depths of Machon Sharrett, the cancer ward of Hadassah Ein Kerem. This is the only place in Jerusalem for radio-therapy, so cancer patients from all over meet here.

And, unlike chemo, radiation treatment is daily, so there is a sort of fraternity created by the daily contact.

During my first few days, I met an interesting Anglo man. We had a really nice chat. For a few days running, we got there around the same time. It was nice to see a familiar face. I even met his son one day. But then we didn't meet up again. I hope the next time I see him, we will be at some simcha -- we 'll look at each other, and it will take us a second to remember how we know each other...

I also met a really nice Israeli woman. She is young (younger than me), and has three small kids. She has a tumor in her head... But she has faith. She is sweet and quiet and kind of funky. And she is strong. On top of everything else, I learned that she used to live in Gush Katif, and that she and her family had been kicked out of their home during the expulsion. I met two of her sisters and her husband. Her husband, who was struggling to find work, is now home full time -- caring for his wife and his small children. One nightmare after another...

Among a few of the patients, there was a kind of "chevra", who took care of each other. The first one to arrive would sign in everyone else, so the late-comers wouldn't have to wait. (Everyone is assigned a radiation room. When you get there each day, you sign your name on a list, which is hanging on the door to the radiation room. Then you are called in on a "first come, first served" basis.) It was not "fair" to sign in anyone else, but it was a clear sign of caring for people who were strangers not so long ago. (it might have bothered me more if they were on the same list as me).

By the end of my ten days, I finally figured out the routine: Don't waste time on parking. If there are no parking spaces near Machon Sharett, go to the lower levels and take the shuttle bus up. If you have a "tav necheh"(handicapped parking permit), park in the special lot and take the special shuttle. Then, don't wait for the elevator, take the stairs down and sign in right away. For every person who is signed in before you, there is approximately a ten to fifteen minute wait. Once you are signed in, relax. Nothing else is in your control.....

In the ten days I was there, I only waited a really long time once. Most days, I waited only 10-20 mintues. One day, I didn't even wait at all. The last two days of my treatment were Erev Chag and Erev Shabbat. It was really empty on Erev Chag. And Erev Shabbat the place was practially deserted.

The technicians who operated "my" room were very nice. They were pleasant and answered any questions I had. I requested to come in on the Erev Shabbat, so I could finish up my treatment, and they were very accomodating.

Moshe came with me the last day and, by that time I was quite comfortable there. I invited him to come in and see what goes on "inside". I showed him the neat baskets on the bottom shelves that have our names written on them and hold our sheet (the technicians line the "bed" with a sheet and re-use the same sheet for each person -- how environmentally conscious!). But, that's not really what interested him....

The excitement was the machine itself, the linear accelerator ....

Not quite as exciting as Star Trek, but still pretty cool.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,


Anonymous said...

Dear RivkA,

I hope that all that startrek-like 'zapping' has helped alleviate a bit of the pain in your hip.

Anonymous said...

we worked with the radiation team when we were developing an educational program to help kids prepare for radiation therapy (especially brain tumors, which require wearing a special helmet that could potentially be frightening to a kid). the radiation staff was really nice, helpful, supportive, and really happy to work together to develop the program. it helps them when the kids come in prepared -- they are more relaxed and cooperative -- and of course they realize how much it helps the kids.

i hope your experience there continues to be as positive as possible! (i didn't know about reusing the sheets -- what a great idea). linear accelerators, i don't know from.... except that together, the equipment and the nuclear material are really, really heavy -- several tons -- and that's one reason everything's down there in the basement.

RivkA with a capital A said...

na'amah -- it helped a bit. though not as much as I had hoped

rachel -- I saw the masks -- they are a bit freaky. It's nice that you were able to help alleviate some of the anxiety of the kids.

The staff really was very nice. and the linear accelerator is a totally cool thing -- I suggest following the link and reading a bit about it. it's awesome!