The Fly

Previous radiation patients warned me before I began my treatments that “the machine” has somewhat frequent breakdowns and that I should expect last minute phone cancellations as I’m seconds from arriving, or worse be in my gown waiting my turn when someone hands me an unabridged copy of Tolstoy’s War & Peace, something to keep me content as the technicians scramble to solve the complexity of its parts.  It’s really not that surprising considering that the radiation machine probably had 85 MIT graduates mastermind its birth and has about as many moving parts as one of those unmanned satellites that can navigate itself around Mars and return back home on schedule.

So yesterday as I made my way up Hwy 101 I wasn’t that surprised when my phone rang and it was a familiar voice with a very regrettable tone.  First the message was ‘there’s hope it might be fixed soon’.  Then a second message of, ‘don’t bother coming in, even though you’re probably 100 yards from the parking lot, because the machine is down for the day, possibly two’.  Well, I was already there and suited up for my daily walk so I took the lag time and cruised the streets to complete my 3 miles of training for the day.

With my walk complete, I stopped in to see if there was any hope that the machine was working.  It’s not that I want to get my daily dose of radiation, but as exciting as a snow day is for a school kid, there’s always that dreaded realization that any day off now means one more day is tagged onto the end, and that I did not want! The tech, said with about 50% uncertainty, “Yea, I think it might be working; we can give it a try.”  Not the most reassuring answer I want when I’m the one on the table.  I quickly followed up with a somewhat joking, somewhat not question, “It’s not going to turn me into The Fly or something is it?”  He sensed my unease and over repeated his promise that the machine has many, many safety mechanisms.  Of course my next thought was, well if it’s broken what’s not to say that the safety mechanism is broken, but instead of pushing the matter I took his word and happily got my daily dose.

Now as I scan the mirror for the much anticipated hair on my head, I might just give a quick look on my backside too, just to be sure there’s no mysterious course black hairs poking through my shirt.

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