Tony the cyber knife
He is not tall. He is not young. His hair is mostly gone and rubbing his head for luck feels like polishing Aladdin’s lamp. Tony’s been around the block. The few times. Given the limits of Pandora, he’s a great DJ for his captive audience of zappees, each of us lying in turn on a table in a lead-lined room with a multimillion dollar robotic radiation machine, rotating around us, zooming in and out, raising itself up and squatting down, clicking and ticking and groaning, honing in on the right angle as it swivels its head like a screechy chitterring owl with other-worldly curiosity and laser focus. Targeted radiation. Tony is behind the scenes, watching, navigating, and manipulating the controls from the hallway. Not only does he have to ensure the machine achieves pinpoint accuracy, but he and his crew must also attend to his zappees, supporting each of us with humor, kindness, warm blankets, and solo performances of whatever music Pandora serves up, all day long.
For each of us, the area to be zapped is immobilized. In my case, since the area to be zapped is my brain, I am snapped down on the table by a form-fitted plastic mesh mask, the back of my head nestled in the cup of a form-fitted cushion, all freshly made in preparation for these five targeted radiation sessions. Given the limitations of being of being strapped down, the devout hippie inside me is internally shaking her head and rolling her eyes. What in God’s name am I doing here? But I must stay still for about an hour.
The reason for this bizarre treatment is the recurrence of glioblastoma in two spots whom I shall call Abbott and Costello. Their names make me smile and remind me of the amazing film “Arrival” which I highly recommend. The doctors agreed it would be wise to address A and C while they are both young and not too attached or savvy to living inside my head.
This is a long and winding road, doable only with a little help from my friends.
My fellow aikido sensei and friend Jamie sees this cyberknife as an effective use of the sword– the triangle basic to the three main shapes in aikido. I hope to write a longer piece about this maybe while we’re here at the John Zay House.
On the first day I ask for Jimi Hendrix’s cover of Dylan’s: “All along the watchtower,” especially the first line to calm myself. (If I smell smoke, I will know for a brief moment that Tony the cyberknife has screwed up. But I have rubbed his shiny dome and we have hugged and laughed at some silly joke, so I know I’ll be okay).
Tony cues up Jimi and off we go:
There must be some kind of way outta here
Said the joker to the thief
There’s too much confusion
I can’t get no relief
Businessmen, they drink my wine
Plowmen dig my earth
None will level on the line
Nobody offered his word
No reason to get excited
The thief, he kindly spoke
There are many here among us
Who feel that life is but a joke
But, uh, but you and I, we’ve been through that
And this is not our fate
So let us stop talkin’ falsely now
The hour’s getting late,.
All along the watchtower
Princes kept the view
While all the women came and went
Barefoot servants, too
Well, uh, outside in the cold distance
A wildcat did growl
Two riders were approaching
And the wind began to howl.
I feel heat, but don’t smell smoke. Phew. Tomorrow I’ll ask for Tina.
For someone of such fame as Tina Turner, coupled with her recent passing, I’m surprised Pandora hasn’t organized a compilation of Tina’s greatest hits. In her honor, I have even named my recently purchased rolling walker, Tina, the queen of walk and roll. Tony could only find “what’s love got to do with it?” I should’ve asked him to crank it up.
It is day three of CyberKnife, hump day. I ask for Carlos Nakai and Native American flute music. The watery birdlike music is transporting but doesn’t have a groove. I am having trouble swallowing and my nose is twitching. Tomorrow I will ask for the blues, and on the final day I want to hear more Jimi, and Merry Clayton singing backup for the Rolling Stones.
I just finished with day 4, a blues day, and amazingly I saw a flash of cerulean blue indicative of the Cherenkov effect. When I went through the original radiation treatment almost four years ago, I saw mandala-like constellations of this cerulean blue for a nanosecond almost every time, enough to remember it and make some watercolor studies and a larger painting of it.
Tomorrow I have an early session and then it’s homeward bound. Hooray. We are past due for the space and peace of the San Luis Valley.
After a couple days and nights of blotto exhaustion, vice grip headaches, and weird swirling dreams, I am feeling better. Thank you, body for generously accepting and dealing with what is being handed to you, bizarre and poisonous as it may be.
One day at a time is the only way I can walk this road.