Archive for October 7th, 2008

2nd Radiation Treatment of 20
Radiation Dose Received to Date: 3.0Gy
Total Dose Prescribed: 30Gy

Today was treatment #2 and I took some photos so that everyone could see what the radiation bunker looks like.

Here’s the beast, a Varian Clinac 21EX linear accelerator, in the Spruce treatment room at the Vancouver Island Cancer Centre. The clinic has six identical units. Isn’t it magnificent?

Two radiation therapists work together to position Tom on the table using lasers and his tattoos as a guide. Sadly, the camera wasn’t able to pick up the laser beams that emanate from the wall. They come from that plus sign you see to the left and are used to line up the tattoos on either side of Tom’s chest. Another laser is used to position Tom relative to the two tattoos on top of his chest. That’s three frickin lasers!

The treatment room contains a monitor that displays Tom’s treatment information and guides the therapists while they position him.

Because Tom had cancer in the nodes in his neck, he has to hyperextend his neck in order to expose the nodes to the radiation with as few additional structures in the way as is possible (in this case, his jaw). The technicians tape his head into position. It’s very uncomfortable but it could be worse…he could have to wear a mask and be bolted down to the table. (How Hannibal Lecter!)

(Oooo, in this picture you can faintly see the laser alignment beam along the centre of Tom’s torso.)

And finally, the doors close and Tom gets nuked. The therapists stand at a control computer to the right of the doors. The room contains motion sensors and the accelerator will not radiate if it detects someone in the room (other than the patient, who must stay incredibly still).

Sadly, I didn’t get a photo of the therapists at their computer. It runs a very slick software program that contains Tom’s treatment plan and controls the accelerator according to the plan. It also shows real-time images from an XRAY machine that’s attached to the accelerator. This is used as another guide to make sure that Tom gets treatment in the appropriate areas.

Other interesting bits of info about the radiation bunker:

  • The walls are 16 feet thick and made of concrete reinforced with chunks of steel
  • The door is made of steel and is a foot thick
  • If you accidentally touch one of the accelerators, a loud alarm goes off (don’t ask me how I know that…ahem)

“Mini Me, stop humping the laser. Honest to God! Why don’t you and the giant laser get a fricken room for God’s sakes?” Dr. Evil in Austin Powers


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