Author Babette Hughes continues to share her emotional breast cancer journey with us.
After I was finally admitted to MD Anderson in Houston, a surgeon gave me a lumpectomy and assigned me to seven weeks of daily radiation back home in Austin.
The regular parking lot is a long hot walk to the hospital, but the radiation department has its own close-in parking spaces. You punch in the secret numbers that the receptionist gives you and the gate silently lifts, graciously allowing you in to get your breast fried. It is a very exclusive parking lot that no one wants in. To enter, you have to have cancer.
It is a daily 25-minute commute, slowed through school zones, stopped by traffic lights, speeded up on the freeway. Monday through Friday at four o’clock, rain or shine. In the reception room you wait your turn in the same plastic chair every day. Once or twice someone is already sitting there and you feel stolen from, insulted, furious. You want to upend that poor, sick, skinny little man, but you sit down in another chair. There is the usual old coffee that looks like ink, the water cooler, the TV spewing its insistent sales pitches. There are the other waiting patients, some in wheel chairs, others so healthy-looking you don’t know if they are patients or relatives.
After a short wait you are summoned by a technician who greets you like a busy restaurant hostess. You meekly rise and follow her to another room as if she is leading you to your restaurant table. But it really is a table! Although it has no menus or wine glasses, and is covered with a sheet, it is indeed a table.
You are sent behind a screen to remove your blouse and bra. Now, topless as a pole dancer in a gentleman’s club, you cover yourself with a waiting pillow case (why is it a pillow case?), walk over to the radiation table and lie down…