I'm used to the routine now. I remove my green housecoat and hop up onto the table. I remove the right sleeve of my gown and lay down. As I scooch down on the table, I glance up to the monitor which contains my information. The technicians always call me by name and ask me my date of birth, but I always check to make sure the numbers on the monitor are all mine.
I lay my head in the uncomfortable bowl-shaped headrest; this will be moved in a moment or two by a technician and my head will rest directly on the table. I raise my legs while the technician places a padded bumper under them. Under me is a hospital sheet, which will come in handy when setting me up.
The table moves slowly, first it glides along the floor a couple of feet, then it raises higher off of the floor. The lights are dimmed and a beam of green light streams across my chest. My right arm is placed above my head and out of the way.
I no longer move on my own - I am to remain still and let the technicians move me as needed. There is a technician to my right, leaning over me, looking at the tattoos I have marking my chest. A light from the machine directly above streams numbers down the front of my chest. The technician reads numbers out to her teammate whose voice I can hear but who I can no longer see. She gently presses on my side and reads more numbers. A gentle tug of the sheet beneath me moves me ever so slightly. Occasionally, the teammate is called over to "roll" me from the other side with a gentle tug of the sheet from the left.
The side of my body, near my lymph node incision is gently poked. Then my arm, near my armpit, is smooshed, the technician trying to move it higher, out of the way of radiation. And again, more smooshing. Then the tape is brought out. They must tape the under portion of my arm to the machine. I joke that they have to tape my arm fat. In reality, they tape me down to keep that part of my arm out of the stream of radiation, but the tape also makes it easier to hold my arm above my head and I am thankful for it. On my skinny-arm days when they don't use it, my arm strains to stay in position and I fear I will move it unknowingly.
I do not move my head for fear of moving my body out of allignment. The machine above me is slightly reflective and I watch to see what movements are to come. Soon they come with a ruler and measure from my chest to my chin - this always ends with a slight nudge to remind me to keep my head up.
At this point, something inevitably itches: my nose, my arm, my thigh. It doesn't matter, I cannot move, it will have to wait. Soon the technicians are done and they cover my breast with my gown. "Okay, Karen, we're all set to go." They leave the room as the lights come up. And treatment begins...