Radiology 101


When you have radiation therapy on your head or throat, they create a clever little mask for you, like so:




You wear it during the (brief) radiation treatment. It keeps your head in place without twitching, and it’s marked so that the doctors and nurses can tell where to aim the radiation.




I had the mask made yesterday. The nurses took a sheet of perforated plastic and heated it in warm water to 150 degrees until it softened; then they put it over my face and molded it to my features until it hardened.



Then I heard the word “tattoo” mentioned.



Then, all of a sudden, one of the nurses lunged in and jabbed me in the middle of my chest with a needle, and made an insignificant little mark. That’s the tattoo that’ll be used to help them place the mask and aim the radiation.



All these years I’ve put off getting a tattoo. Now I have one, and it’s a stupid red dot, right where no one can see it.



Also, regarding the radiology mask: I desperately wanted to take a picture of it when it was done, but they took it away too quickly. But I imagine it looked something like this:






About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

10 Responses to Radiology 101

  1. You made me laugh out loud. Literally. Yes.

    Glad the radiation sessions are brief.

  2. Oh, Loren! This is too barbaric for words. But I’m sure it’s leaps ahead of what they did even a few years ago. The end justifies the means?
    By the way, if they want to do more tattoos, you can discuss using a “permanent” marker instead; a friend of mine found this out after the fact; she says the tattoo is obviously easier (maybe for you as well as them), but it’s not “required.” But this may not be your concern right now.
    Just keep advocating for yourself, ask questions, remind them this is all new for you, no matter how many times they’ve done it. You are a person; you matter.

    • Well, the tattoo’s a done deal. At least it’s discreet. It’s not barbaric, believe me, compared to what my father went through in 1975. This is very precise and deliberate. And I’ve always wanted a tattoo. But I would have preferred a birdie or a duckie.

  3. starproms says:

    Hmm well if you keep that pic of Han Solo in your mind, it might help next time, but it won’t do to smile, will it. How did you feel afterwards? and how many more sessions can you look forward to? ((((hug)))

    • This was only the preliminary. I start on Monday October 21, and it goes on for seven weeks, five days a week. (The radiation only lasts for 20 minutes, and it’s first thing in the morning, so it will be good to get it out of the way.)

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