As you are aware, I am being treated for breast cancer. My last phase of treatment is radiation. At Mayo Clinic, my radiation protocol is everyday for 15 days. The treatments continue to be easy due largely to the wonderful radiation team that takes care of me. Last week, my radiation therapists (Diana and Andrea) helped me capture the experience to share with you. 

To protect from radiation exposure, the Radiation Center is located away from the rest of the clinic and below ground level. As I enter the general treatment area, I am greeted by Erica, “Hello, Ms. Dannay,” she says as she checks me in for my session.

Erica greets everyone. She is always smiling and offering a warm and personal welcome.

Although below ground level, the waiting room is filled with natural light from windows next to an atrium area.

The main waiting area

The waiting area is complete with distractions – Magazines, a TV and even snacks. Each area has one or more tables with puzzles.  It had been a long time since I worked on a puzzle. I have found it to be a great distraction. When I am focused on the puzzle, the rest of the world disappears and all my stress with it.  I work on it before I am called into treatment, and I often use it afterward to transition back to the real world.

Another patient asked if I would finish this puzzle by the time I finished treatment? I wish she hadn’t asked as I can’t turn down a challenge.

When called for treatment, I enter a different area, with another waiting room just for patients. It too, has the requisite puzzles. Fortunately, I haven’t had to wait long enough here to get hooked on one. In the adjacent changing area, I change up for treatment. Everything above the waist is removed and I don a pink hospital top.

Ready for treatment.

Today, Andrea and Dawn are waiting for me. They are always cheerful, personal and very efficient. Next to Andrea is a heated box filled with blankets. If you have to expose yourself, it is so nice to have a heated blanket waiting for you.

Dawn on the left, and Andrea is leaning against the heated blanket storage unit.

I follow them into the treatment room.

It’s a bit overwhelming at first, but they have it set up for me to lay on this table.
Before I’m positioned, I’m handed goggles. These provide breathing instructions during treatment.
The lasers are used to align my body. The box on my belly monitors my breathing.

I lay on the table and my therapists work to align me with the laser beams using tattoo marks on my body. They align it with the lasers and immobilize my feet and hands (no wiggling allowed).

The machine moves around me to provide radiation at different angles.

My therapists go off to a separate room. I am left alone.

The door is closed.
Dawn in the control booth. You can see me on the screens to the right.
They use X-rays to refine my positioning. The screen on the upper right is what appears in my goggles.

There are two positioning x-rays (to refine my position), and then two radiation applications and I’m done. They free me from the table, and I celebrate another day done!

Special thanks to Dawn and Andrea for taking the time to help me with this project and for help with all the photos.