I have a tattoo between my breasts. I got it in Thailand a year before my diagnosis. It is the image of a blue eye rising up out of a many petaled lotus resting within the frame of an upright triangle. It represents the all knowing eye arising from the heart of compassion and seeing all.
Coincidentally while being configured for radiation the tip of the triangle and the dot at the bottom under the lotus flower matched perfectly with the green laser beams that cross my body and make the matrix that establishes my exact position for the high powered x-rays to pass through my breast killing any cells that might be cancerous or precancerous and not passing through anything else because this light, this energy, this magic is deadly. The lines and positioning must be perfect.
Everyone in the room thinks that my tattoo is great. Some call it a foreshadowing, as if I knew and was planning for this moment a year ago while laying on a table in a small tattoo parlor in Chiang Mai. Some just think its convenient as I lay on this table in a windowless room in Portland, Oregon, offering myself up for attack.
For me, the one comforting part while in the vault with chunky archaic looking x-ray machine parts orbiting around my torso is the reflective square surface where the invisible rays come out of. This mirror slowly crosses my body like the sun that rises in the east and sets in the west and I see the blue eye in the lotus gaze down upon me. The eye looks into the eye. I can also see the green laser lights criss crossing and matching up with the lines they draw on me each day when they ask me to hold my breath. They use a magic marker for this. (It is all about magic.) I stay still in the center and like planets around the sun these objects begin rotating around me with a flip of a switch and then they jolt to a stop.
She says, “8.75”
and the other one says, “clear.”
Once they have me all set in place, they scuttle out of the room and I am alone on the slab in the center. On the ceiling above me, there is a fake skylight. A bright blue sky with big puffy clouds and at the edge of the frame, the canopy of a tree with white flowers peaks over and on the other edge it is a grander tree like an oak or an alder with baby green leaves just being born suggesting Spring. My eyes deceive me and I see the clouds change and move like clouds do so slow and subtle that your not sure really what has changed. But it is just a picture on a ceiling in a basement with a bright light behind it.
The radiation only takes a few minutes. Over the loudspeaker they tell me to take a deep breath in and hold my breath while it occurs. The only indication that it is happening is a beeping sound. I feel nothing. I see nothing. I just obey as they tell me when I can and can’t breathe. Click whir bzzz, the radiation planets conveyer themselves over to the other side to assault me from behind. I watch the eye stare at me as it tracks across my body. My task is stay very still. That’s all, but that’s a lot. When one of radiologists walks back into the room I know it is safe and I can move. Until tomorrow. Every day I do this. I have one more week left.
This radiation process is like a course in cultivating trauma in the body; I am splayed out like a scared dog on her back, holding my breath, and freezing all my movements while allowing an attack upon my body. I cried on the slab today. tear by tear slipped from the creases of my eyes along my temples and into my hair, but I did not move.
My breast is angry, hot, red, and swollen. I am angry. There is so much excess heat in my body I want to explode, take off my skin, scream and kick. And today I really feel the heat! I had to do a double dose, one session at 6am and the other at 2. They have to keep the barrage at least 6 hours apart or statistically they find it does too much damage. It is evident that I am no longer an individual, just a statistic. We don’t know if there are cancer cells floating around inside me, but this is the plan that I must follow because of the data, because of the cancer paradigm, because this is what we have decided to believe in.
I speak with an arrogance I would not have if I was the young man that comes in next who I can tell is dealing with chemotherapy as well because of the tufts of soft hair in patches on his head which reveals the large indented scar from a recent surgery just behind his left ear. I am humbled by what I have witnessed, what I now am aware of. Truly, I was blessed by the slight brush I’ve had with this disease. My eyes have been opened wider. My capacity for compassion is greater. I bow to death with a new reverence. I bow to my health with a new dedication. I am still searching for my faith.