It’s got a good beat, and you can get irradiated to it

Posted: April 26th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , | 2 Comments »

Getting radiation treatment is a lonely sort of thing.

It’s not for a lack of people being around. At any given session there were at least two to four (and, once, five) radiologists, technicians and nurses hanging around while I became more and more comfortable with essentially being naked from the waist down in front of strangers*. But that was the flurry of activity before and after. In between, during the actual treatment, I was alone.

Just me and a radio.

This is what happened every weekday for three weeks. I would show up at the oncology center, sign in and wait a few minutes. Then I would be escorted to one of the rooms where a radiation machine was waiting for me, filling a large, darkened room with its bulk. Attached to it is a narrow rack to lay on, while the rest of the machine hunches over you and lasers in the walls and ceiling help line up the machine’s radiating eye. The room is dark and cool, and directly above where you lay a couple of the flourescent lighting panels have been replaced with a translucent image of a pretty stream running through a well-manicured park. Something to relax you.

I think that’s what the radio is for, too. Without it the only sound in the room would be the air running through vents, the clunk-whirr of the machine as it rotates into place, and then the cheap-microwave buzz as it cooks away any stray cancer cells that might be lurking in your body. The total time for treatment was only 10 to 15 minutes, and most of that was prep; minutes are used aligning the machine, and only a few seconds at a time are spent getting irradiated. But during the few minutes alone, I was glad to have music.

Quiet time is empty time, and whenever that happens my mind tries to fill it. Usually that’s good since that’s often when I’m most creative. But when I’m worried or anticipating something stressfully beyond my direct control, my imagination runs wild. Without that radio – tuned to an 80s station mostly, sometimes to country – I wouldn’t have had anything to distract me from the machine driving radiation into me. Nothing to help me ignore the awkwardness of laying there, vulnerable. Everything a reminder of the cancer that had pushed its way into my life and the bodily soil I was salting to make sure it doesn’t come back.

The first song I heard on the first day of treatment was so cheerful, so peppy, that it took me aback. So much so that the treatment was over before I realized it, and now “We Got the Beat” by The Go-Go’s is my own Fry-like “Walking on Sunshine.”

After that I decided to keep track of the music playing while I got my radiation treatments, and now I’m sharing it with you. This list was formed completely by chance; I didn’t have any say in what music to listen to, and I didn’t necessarily like everything that was played or even know the artist playing. But this is the way it happened. And now this is music that will always, in some way, be part of my personal soundtrack.

Day 1
“We Got the Beat” – The Go-Go’s
“Gone Country” – Alan Travis

(I stopped listening to new country music sometime in the mid-90s, which is why I was still able to recognize this one.)

“Promises, Promises” – Naked Eyes

(A lot of 80s songs remind me of my wife Sandy, which makes me like them more; this is one of them.)

“Two Princes” – Spin Doctors

(A song from early in our relationship; Sandy and I had just started dating a few months after this was released.)

“Stayin’ Alive” – Bee Gees

(Nice one, Bee Gees.)

“I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” – Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

(Kick-ass song from a kick-ass lady; I probably sang along to this one.)

“Only Prettier” – Miranda Lambert

(I had to ask who this was, though I got the idea she’s a Big Deal.)

“Paper in Fire” – John Cougar Mellencamp

(I’ve always liked this song.)

“Don’t Leave Me This Way” – Thelma Houston

(Great song; don’t worry, you know it even if you think you don’t.)

“Some Like It Hot” – Power Station

(Pure, 80s supergroup; this one makes me think of Sandy – the biggest Duran Duran fan I know – too.)

“Footloose” – Kenny Loggins

(Confession: When “Footloose” hit the dollar theater, I must’ve seen it seven or eight times.)

“Sledgehammer” – Peter Gabriel

(This was played into the ground when it was released; all these years later, I still like it.)

“Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)” – Train

(Sandy and I have dozens of “our songs,” and this is one of them.)

“Small Town U.S.A.” – Justin Moore

(I’m sure Justin Moore is a very nice guy.)

“Holy Diver” – Dio

(I’m cheating a little bit here, because this was actually playing in the car when we left after my last treatment. But I have a history with this song - one shared with Sandy and some close friends – and its pure, undistilled, classic heavy-metalness has always been a source of head-banging joy. I couldn’t have picked a better song to end on. Except maybe “Rainbow in the Dark.”)

If you’d like to listen along, here’s a playlist I put together on Spotify. Weirdly, neither “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” or “Sledgehammer” were available, so here are the original videos (along with “Holy Diver,” because it’s Dio).

* I should point out that the staff at the oncology center were fantastic, and very literally lifted my faith in human beings. Every single person was kind and friendly, taking time to talk to me not just about treatment but about my day and my life. They took something that could have been scary and stressful and smoothed it down into something easy to handle. They are amazing people. If this was a mixtape, I’d dedicate it to them.

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2 Comments on “It’s got a good beat, and you can get irradiated to it”

  1. 1 rob! said at 7:42 pm on April 26th, 2013:

    The room is dark and cool, and directly above where you lay a couple of the flourescent lighting panels have been replaced with a translucent image of a pretty stream running through a well-manicured park. Something to relax you.

    Considering it’s you, they should change that to some pages of a Jimmy Olsen comic or something similar.

    Hang tough my friend!

  2. 2 Maxo Romero said at 3:24 pm on April 28th, 2013:

    Thanks, Rob! And that would’ve been great — they’d probably have to kick me out.

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