July 14, 2009 The Second and Third Radiation Treatments
“Okay Ms. Ogus. You are done. Now our technician will come in to test the radiation levels in the room to make sure it is safe.” What? What about me? What about him? He is not wearing a lead suit. He just points his Geiger counter at this and that and says “Okay.” The nurses return to extricate me from the shoulder straps, tube, and stirrups. By now, Queen Vagina is so sore I don’t care that I yell out in pain when they remove the tube. Any sense of modesty or shame is long gone. I had consensual sex with radiation in front of a cavalry of nurses, doctors and technicians. Consensual or not, I feel raped, violated. When I get to my car, I double over in tears. A vagina is too tender for this kind of treatment. Though mine no longer leads anywhere, it must contain a million nerve pathways heading straight to the center of my being. Crowned, raw, and irradiated, at minimum she deserves a role in Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues. A Greek chorus would be more like it: Rows of real females, not the usual masked males, join hands, raise their arms up high, shout their outrage to the heavens. They wail, evoking the pain of every woman ever raped. A hundred voices singing every violation of this tenderest of female parts; dissonant howls that merge and finally ring in harmony.
(Today is January 4, 2013. A major current news item is the rape and subsequent death of a young woman in India. She was gang-raped on a bus. The men shoved a metal pipe in her vagina. This caused so much internal damage that she could not be saved. I too was raped as a young woman – by a single stranger. Both my rape and this radiation treatment are trivial compared to what happened to this Indian woman. A Greek chorus should wail for her.)
During the week after the first treatment I gird my loins (sorry I couldn’t resist) take on a get tough attitude and ask myself, “How can I turn this into something positive?” I decide to take my cancer cookbook, One bite at a Time, by Rebecca Katz to the waiting room to share with the other patients. Instead of the noisy flock, there are only three women in the waiting room, a frail elderly white woman, a forty-ish robust-looking woman whose shins are marked with black x’s, and a middle-aged Asian woman, maybe Filipino. I introduce myself and the cookbook, rave about Rebecca’s skill at turning kabocha squash into a gourmet meal. The Filipino woman takes a look. The elderly woman smiles, the woman with the black X’s says, “All I eat is sweets. I hate vegetables.” I want to cry out – “But sugar feeds cancer. It’s bad for you!” Just in the nick of time, I realize my desire to share is proselytizing, not what these women need right now, nor can I cure anybody else’s cancer.
The second treatment is a repeat of the first. The gold seeds must have been flushed down the toilet during the previous week. Usually they stay put. “I’m sorry Ms. Ogus. You are just unlucky. This rarely happens. I am so sorry.” This time the doctor shoots them in with more thrust. By now everyone is used to my yelping. I ask him to x-ray me before he sticks in the radiation tube instead of after – so we can avoid excessive strafing of my poor vaginal walls. Again, they leave me alone while the radiations is administered. Birthday or not, when it is all over I have no appetite for mint chocolate chip ice-cream.
The following week, they X-ray me again before inserting the Tube. Three is the charm. The gold seeds stay in. When the eleven minutes are up, the nurse tells me to dress and meet for a consultation in her office. She seats me next to her desk on which there is a brown paper bag. “I have some presents for you,” she says cheerfully. “Here is your diploma for completing the treatment.” It is a rolled up certificate secured with a pink ribbon. “And this.” “This” is a white, hard plastic, smooth walled dildo whose diameter looks daunting. “You need to used this for 15 minutes everyday for the next eight months to keep your vagina from closing up. The radiation can make the vaginal walls shrink.” I want to ask if she has a smaller one, but that seems so . . . unmacho.
The first time I try this, it is so painful I think – let them shrivel! Who cares? I talk to a doctor friend, and she recommends a natural lubricant to ease the process – in fact she sends it to me as a present.