by Judy Hart
Before starting radiation, I buy a set of red towels and collect a variety of red shirts to wear because the dark red dye the technologists will use to mark my body sometimes stains fabric. About the same time the weather warms up, so I stop wearing my hats and let the world view my peculiarly brief but growing hair.
Radiation takes place at 11:00 a.m., five days a week. It is a daily spirited tea party. I expected as much because even though some of the crew is new, I know the vibes in this place. I know these will be people who can relate. Daily I exchange pleasant words with the parking attendant who directs me to a space. I choose to climb the several flights of stairs rather than use the elevator, pleased with my growing physical stamina. I sail into the radiation room, pull off my shirt, and lie down on the table. We exchange humor and good will as the members of the crew execute the intricate steps of their technological dance. The machine makes its characteristic whining whirr, while I stare at the stars and comets imaginatively placed on the ceiling.
What’s new this time is that every other day I have a square of gold lamé laid across the part of my chest that is treated. One of the techs refers to this as “fancy day.” I get a lot of mileage out of the fantasy of being dressed up in the ultimate forties’-style evening gown.
Partway through treatment the protocol will change and there won’t be any more “fancy days.” To celebrate my last gold lamé experience, I dig out the gold tinsel wig I got at a county fair last year. It is a marvelous, outrageous coif with gold bangs that come well down the forehead and locks that flutter at mid-neck. To wear it is to bring out my utmost foolishness. The doctor, appreciative as always, says in mock resignation, “I try to run a respectable establishment here.” As we chat our way through the radiation set-up procedures, I say, “Well you know, they always say blondes have more fun.”
I’m having such a good time with the wig that I also wear it to my oncologist’s. Now this takes more inner centering and keeping my eye clearly on my goal, because an oncologist’s waiting room is not a barrel of laughs. Furthermore, I look like a bag lady as I have a ratty shopping bag overflowing with goodies I am taking to the office staff that day as my token of appreciation for all they do. When my oncologist, whom I haven’t seen since before the beginning of radiation, comes to the door to call me in, I greet him warmly and say, “I just thought you’d like to see how my hair has grown out since I last saw you.”
Bio: Judy Hart attended the first several Cancer as a Turning Point Conferences. She personified Hope in her very honest and giddy way. She remained truly herself — laughing, loving, and writing until she died of breast cancer. A Daily Spirited Tea Party is from her published book, Love, Judy: Letters of Hope and Healing for Women With Breast Cancer.