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or "7 ½ weeks of bad-ass beams"  Show this Post


preparing for this exercise was intense, as it involved the coordination of numerous volunteers over a period of almost 7 ½ weeks.  we needed folks to babysit when I was at appointments and my wife was working, folks to pick up after school and daycare, drivers for myself (due to unrelated health issues) and it was amazing the way friends and family – even some very distant family – came together to freely give of themselves and their time to help.
for most of this period, I had to be chauffeured because I had been suffering from some severe pain from pinched nerves in my neck and had to be on heavy doses of morphine – causing numerous side-effects, many of them not conducive to "safe driving" and despite 80 km round trip and the waits at the clinic, there were always volunteers willing to fill the role.   
in order to ensure complete accuracy, I was assigned to the same radiation machine for all appointments as the one which was used to initially measure and tattoo me.  this is a bit of a crap-shoot, because there were 6 machines and not all of them are created equal and they all had varying levels of maintenance issues throughout the period I was there… some were frequently down and many of them ran consistently late in their scheduling.  You get to follow the status of each on lovely big screens like an airport arrivals/departures display – showing if the machine was up or down and how late/early it was running, so the patients in the waiting area could judge exactly how much longer they had to gripe or knit or read or play with the many picture puzzles lying around the area.
My machine was without question the best-behaved of all of them – it was rarely running late and it was only down once for one whole day, and I was fortunately notified of it before leaving home.
The other consistency, was the radiation teams who were responsible for each machine – they stuck with the same one and although there were occasional swap-outs due to vacations (especially over the Christmas period), it was really helpful to see the same familiar faces each day.  These radiation therapists not only had the responsibility to operate and care for these machines, but the most challenging part of their job was dealing with their patients.  You should know that while some of us were symptom-free and many were walk-in and fully ambulatory, there are also very sick patients receiving radiation simply as palliation and these could be partially ambulatory or rolled over on gurneys from the main hospital thru the connecting tunnel.
Managing the needs of each of these types of patients, while maintaining a positive and encouraging demeanour and handling the intricacies of positioning and aligning each of these folk for their treatments takes some special people skills in addition to their education and training for the technology.   I was always impressed with the care shown to me, the quick call-ins (usually with minutes with my arriving) and the care of the machine, which only had that single breakdown and only ran late on 3 occasions that I remember.  So… once again I want to shout out a very warm and sincere THANK-YOU to my PLA3 Team (made up for the most part by the regulars Thomas, Christine, Debra, and Rosanna).   It may be unlikely that they would ever run across this post, but at least I took the opportunity – back then – following my last appointment – to let them know how much I appreciated not only all they did for me, but especially how they did it.  The PLA3 team rocks!