My first radiation treatment proved anticlimactic.
The ladies positioned me on the table, instructed me to grab the bar above my head and to lie very still as The Big Machine made its impressive 240-degree sweep around me, shooting moon beams from both under the table and from two positions above. The high-pitched buzz alerts you when The Big Machine is doing its thing.
From the time the techs closed the door at the start of treatment until their return consumed 12 minutes. They let patients choose their music during treatment and have an iHome in the room. I dialed down my iPod to a longtime favorite: Pink Floyd’s “Welcome to the Machine.”
Lynn stood in the hallway with the techs, shooting the video screens that techs use to monitor patients. Thanks to Floyd, she said, it all looked and sounded quite spooky.
After radiation, I convinced Lynn to schlep to my hometown of Perry, 35 miles east of Cleveland, to capture something for the documentary. I'm not sure what. I wanted her to see “home,” a place I view with not much fondness today.
We went to Perry Park, where I played baseball. That’s where some of the best memories of my hometown reside. I always got a small thrill when we passed that last copse of trees and the green fields of the park, situated along the lake, came into view.
We then stopped by the graves of my mom and my sister, Mary Ann. That felt a bit strange and forced. I’m not a visitor of graves. I don't see much utility in it. I've made it abundantly clear that my ashes should be placed in the dust heap of insignificant and soon-to-be-forgotten history.
The only other stop occurred in front of my childhood home, the only place I lived until I left Perry for the Army nine days after graduating from high school. I could not escape fast enough.
Lynn dropped me at home in the Heights by noon. I had a bowl of the vegetable soup my sister, Kay, had brought to me, slurped down a high-calorie shake and promptly passed out. My sleep schedule remains spotty at best, but regular naps are helping.
Mary Lou is taking Hanna to The Gathering Place in Beachwood this afternoon, a wonderful resource for families and patients dealing with cancer. She took the kids there during her journey with breast cancer. Hanna would like to talk to someone about what she's feeling now that she is watching yet another parent go through treatment.
The guilt continues to mount. I can recall going to The Gathering Place only once during Mary Lou's treatment and that was to drop the kids off for a program.
Like so many things in our marriage, I’ve depended on her to do the right thing. I never thought to use the services of The Gathering Place. I didn’t have cancer. Me, me, me, me, me.
I never doubted that Mary Lou would make a full recovery. Failure was not an option. I don't think I was capable of raising two young kids.
My heart bled as I watched how chemo sickened her and how radiation sapped her of strength. Yet she trudged on like the soldier that she is.
I think I helped her during the process, but I'm confident that I did not do enough. I plead guilty to compartmentalizing. The gravity of her cancer never seemed quite real. I defined that episode in our lives as something to deal with and forget as quickly as possible.
I remember now a friend chiding me strongly for continuing to smoke despite what she was enduring. I, of course, paid him no mind.
Despite all of that, I know Mary Lou will provide me with the exquisite, unconditional love and care she has always given me these past 22 years.
She knows that standing behind a Potemkin Village of professed bravery and optimism, a small, scared boy quivers. I need her now more than ever.