VISITING THE DRAGON
Deep in the caverns of the medical matrix of the hospital a dragon lives. If you're one of the 1.7 million new cancer cases each year, you know what I am talking about. The formal name for it is a linear accelerator or EBRT machine, but to patients like me it’s a dragon, immense in size. You lay flat before its arms and hot breath, just hoping. Praying the treatment room professionals have it in control, that the out come will be good, that you will survive.
There’s the preparation room where others patients sit waiting for their turn. Some for as few as 5 treatments, others for over 40. It all depends on the type of cancer and the prognosis. You get to know each other, at least by first name. All pretense falls away, you are all there for the same thing. Sometimes you ask what they are being treated for. Mostly though, the talk is of how many treatment days are left. They come and go as your treatment progresses. The ones with one or two left are envied by all. Your mind plays with your remaining days of treatment, trying to reimagine how they will unfold, how you can speed them up. But you never can.
The attendant professional comes in, you name is called and you go to visit the dragon. They ask you again for your full name, date of birth and why you are being treated. The dragon wants to know. You climb onto the table. The attendants move you back and forth to align the radiation beam targets. “Just pretend you're a sack of potatoes, we will get you right,” the attendants say. They give you a rubber ring to hold with both hands, now folded over your chest. “It’s ready for you now,” they softly say as they leave the room.
The dragon moves out over you. You never really look at the whole machine, it’s largeness alone makes you bow to it. The arms of the dragon rotate around you, I could never tell how many, maybe 3 or 4, each looking different and seemingly with its own purpose. It’s just scanning you in these first rotations, seeing if your body is ready for treatment.
Then you are in limbo, a purgatory of sorts as you lay there waiting for a remote doctor to give an OK for the radiation to start. You hope the attendants will not come back, saying more prep is needed before treatment. You are reassured as the table below you makes a last adjustment, a small vibration, the arms are positioned, the start mark appearing above you. Then the treatment begins, you can feel the warm breath of the dragon as its arms rotate around you, you feel its potential power, and the control of the attendants. It seems to last longer than the five minutes it takes to complete.
The attendants then reappear saying we are done, taking away the ring you are holding. Helping you down from the table. You can mark another one done on the calendar, how many left you think? As you walk out the room, you thank them again for their control of the dragon, now safely back in its cavern.
When you finish treatment, your relief is overwhelming. You reflect about the dragon, how it may have saved you, but you hope to never see it again.