Steve here –
I accompanied Erin to her radiation treatment and visit with the radio-oncologist last week. With the technician’s permission I took some photos figuring that many people might be interested in the procedure. Erin had been pretty cool about the experience. She raved about the kindness of the staff and said that the radiation was was actually relaxing (she fell asleep a few times).
The radiation facilities themselves are quite impressive. The waiting room looks more like a luxury hotel lobby than a hospital. It’s located in a separate building from the nearby Kaiser clinic. The interior is decorated in warm woods and asian-inspired artwork intended to relax the patients.
There are two radiation treatment rooms, each with a big control panel in an anteroom outside some thick doors with ominous radiation warnings on them. As you can see in the photos, the equipment is quite large. I was expecting something more like a dental x-ray (how it was described to me at some point) but these looked more like something from a James Bond movie. Erin is strapped down to a metal table and a double-sided machine moves around her.
The most difficult part to watch, though Erin seemingly gets through it without as much as a twitch, is the special mask they use to immobilize her head. This plastic mesh device is custom fit to her face and has markings on the side that they align with lasers to ensure that she is in the exact same position each day of radiation. As I later learned, the treatment is administered through six positions of the machine, each of which applies the radiation in over 120 separate segments. They measured everything a few times. Two technicians double check each-other’s measurements and the computer also has a failsafe that won’t allow the treatment to begin if anything is remotely out of position.
The treatment itself only takes about 5 minutes but the measurement process took about 10-15.
I stayed outside with the technicians and Erin was alone in the “hot” room while the treatment was applied. The NASA-esque control room included computer screens monitoring the treatment details and closed-circuit TV screens focused on Erin.
Following the treatment, they removed the mask which had been bolted to the table. It had been so tight that Erin was left with a mesh impression on her face and head. She said that with the mask on she can’t even move her lips a millimeter.
All in all, I was impressed by the facilities, the staff, and most importantly, Erin’s ability to deal with the treatments. I hate to see her having to go through all of this but am thankful that we have access to such great treatment.