This Is A Great Violence

Zine from the CancerGram 13 of 18, covering my radiation treatments, which lasted 8 weeks, from mid January to mid March, 2017.

The radiation treatments started along with my second semester in Memphis. I was able to schedule the treatments between classes during my lunch break. As long as I dashed out of my morning class as soon as it ended, I could make it to radiation and back before my afternoon class started.

They decided to give me 80 grays over 39 treatments. Five days a week for eight weeks, with one day off. The treatments were only about 20 minutes long. It was like going to the tanning salon. Once you knew the routine, it was in and out.

Except that you have to stay perfectly still on a hard flat surface as a huge machine pumps radiation into your delicate organs. I had to concentrate to stay still. They line you up using these lasers. The first six weeks was a series of about 18 specific radiation blasts. The machine would rotate into place, stop, then turn on the radiation. It made a whiny sound.

The last two weeks of treatments was a carpet bombing. The radiation stayed on as the machine rotated around me 360 degrees. Luckily week seven fell over spring break, when I could hide inside all day.

I had nausea in the evenings. It didn’t seem that bad. But I was tired, very tired, all the time. On Fridays after radiation, I’d skip office hours to go home and rest. Most of those weekends I didn’t leave the house again until Monday morning. Everyone said that was normal.

Sometimes I sensed a tingling. It felt like I was being slow cooked in a microwave. My guts were getting a tan. I made jokes with the nurses to keep it light. In week three it occurred to me that this was a great violence. I wept silently on the table, not moving at all, unable to wipe the tears away from pooling in my eyes.