Monday, February 28, 2011

"Meet Lenore"

I'm 20% done.

My first CyberKnife session went as quickly and easily as they had advertised. I arrived at 1:15, and a radiation therapist (not "nurse") led me way back, past the exam rooms, through a thick door marked, "Warning! Heavy radiation!", or some similar suggestion. Despite this admonition, the large room felt rather warm and cozy. And there, in the center, stood this large (10 foot?) white THING that reminded me of a cross between a modernist T-Rex sculpture and one of those Imperial AT-AT walkers from The Empire Strikes Back.

"Meet 'Lenore'."

I examined the CyberKnife machine. It looked powerful, but friendly enough. The radiation therapist continued, "She's quiet. You won't even know she's working."

"'She', eh? It's a girl?"

"Yep--LENORE." (in case I missed that the first time.) I felt like I should react somehow, as you would when meeting an actual person. But all I could muster was the lame, "I guess SOMEBODY around here is a fan of Poe." Neither therapist seemed to catch my reference, which was just as well.

I donned my referee shirt, got on the table, and we started. They attached small red LED-type lights to my white stripes, to help the machine better see my breath rising and falling. For the first 15 minutes, the therapists entered and exited the room frequently, tugging my shoulders a half an inch to this side or that, sliding my waist down a bit, readjusting my blankets and straps. Finally they announced "We got it!", and I was in the exact right position. They told me to hold very still, but if I needed to move just slightly, I should do it when Lenore was moving, not when she was still, shooting out her invisible beams.

They left the room. I lay there, comfortably, my eyeballs rolled back in my head attempting to catch a glimpse of Lenore, who was just behind me, waiting.

Suddenly, she jumped to life, like a raptor stretching out after a long nap, expanding, twisting over to me. She racheted her laser nose around and down to get a glimpse at my torso. Like prey, I lay, watching as she moved over me. She seemed to be studying me, considering me from different angles, stopping every so often to think before twisting and swinging her neck in a different direction, always with an eye on my torso.

I felt nothing. After a bit, I started to feel sleepy. My mind started wandering in the way it does just before I fall asleep. I was remembering my elementary school building, and some of my classmates. A voice jolted me back to reality, "TEN MORE MINUTES, SHELLY, YOU'RE DOING GREAT!"

Lenore continued her elaborate radiation dance, and then, just as noiselessly as she began, she slowly retracted, folding back into her resting position. The lights came on. I was done.

As I walked out of Lenore's lair, I passed the technician at his computer. "Want to see your images?" The screen in front of him reminded me of a surveillance screen, with four different views into my torso, all in x-ray. He tapped the screen, "Those 4 bright spots are your fiducial markers" (gold seeds). He pointed out a few organs, and I was clever enough to recognize my spine all on my own. "See you tomorrow at 1!" he waved.

I exited into the waiting room. Only once have I ever seen anyone else in there. Today, a 50-something mother sat with her 20-something son. I looked at them, and they at me. "I just got 'Knifed", I told them. She looked at me and smiled, "Uh-oh!"

I validated my parking at the reception desk, then left. I wondered, "How will the garage know I've already paid?" so I inspected the ticket. I couldn't believe it. There at the bottom, it said "Toledo Ticket Company, Toledo, Ohio." Home. For some reason, that made me feel happy.


  1. One down, four to go! THank you for the awesome recount. I feel like I'm right there with you. Sounds like awesome technology. Of course, we still give it a human name. I wonder who "Lenore" was named after. ???
    Good luck tomorrow. Thinking of you and sending lots of love- Alex

  2. Great news Shelly!

    Besides the obvious awesomeness of this getting done, your Star Wars reference made me laugh!

    Cant wait to see you in a couple months!

  3. Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
    And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
    Eagerly I wished the morrow; - vainly I had sought to borrow
    From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore -
    For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
    Nameless here for evermore.

    She sounds like a radient maiden indeed! I got your Poe joke. -Athena

  4. LOVE your writing, Shell. And how perfect a ticket from Toledo!!!! Gotta be a good sign, me thinks.

  5. What on earth? Haha, you actually became a referee in a surgical operation. You don't see that every day, LOL. I hope Lenore is doing well. Maybe you can don your referee shirt in a sports game next time.

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