I only post about things that are near and dear to my heart, and being a Radiation Therapist is one of those things.
And here we are. In the middle of a pandemic of the likes we have never seen in our years, and we hope to never see again. The adversities, challenges, fears, and panic are all-consuming at this point. We are asked to stay home. To take social distancing seriously. To stay up to date on all the news and information that is available.
Yet, as Radiation Therapists, we don’t have the luxury – yes, luxury – to stay home and safe. We walk into our hospitals and clinics and feel the fear and anxiety of each of our patients… not because they have cancer, but because they have to come to the hospital and be treated for a life-threatening disease… with a very real chance of acquiring a life-threatening virus.
See, as Radiation Therapists, we give a bit of ourselves to each of our patients. Yet, we take on their anxiety and fears, rational and otherwise, as well. It’s a constant give and take throughout our day. We have 15-20 minutes with each patient, and we start to understand them, and learn about their lives. We laugh with them, cry with them, and sometimes, we just listen.
Now, with the added layer of national fear and panic, it is.
I can only speak for myself at this point, but I feel selfish sometimes. I want to stay home and stay out of harms way. I sometimes pity myself and my teammates that we have to come and give every ounce of our souls to our patients. I am overwhelmed with all the information thrown at us throughout the day about process changes and emergency plans. I hate the fact that while I’m driving home, I wonder if tomorrow will be the day that I have the elusive low grade fever. What if one of my coworkers takes this virus home to their families? What if I bring this thing home to my husband? I struggle with these thoughts because they are inherently selfish.
I immediately follow these thoughts up with – what if I had to choose? What if I had to choose whether to stay home or get my cancer treatment? What if I had to choose to go to the grocery store, being immunosuppressed, or use what’s in my pantry just to protect myself?
What if I lost my job?
It’s an everyday battle of thoughts. I pray through it. I laugh with my coworkers, and talk it through with my husband. I admit that I’m more scared than I let on. I put a smile on my face, because I don’t want my patients to feel the anxiety and fear that I’m feeling. I will work more hours and be supportive to my team and my patients. I will treat, schedule, call patients, answer the phone, run QA’s, check my email, go to huddles and Chart Rounds, and make sure images are checked.
I will continue to give everyone everything I have. I will give virtual hugs, instead of real hugs. I will still cry with my patient that can’t even fathom celebrating her completion of radiation, because her 3-year-old grandson is still receiving chemo. I will laugh with my patient who gave us little baggies of 10 squares of toilet paper – you know – just in case of emergency! I will be accommodating to the patient who struggles with every aspect of radiation and chemo, and needs lots of love and attention.
Yet, I will continue to be scared. I will continue to be exhausted at the end of the day. I will continue to walk into the hospital, show my badge, get my temperature taken, and put my game face on.
So there you have it. That’s a little insight into a Radiation Therapist’s mind during a pandemic. Of course, we are not the only ones dealing with this… every aspect of the healthcare team has the same thoughts and fears – yet, specific to that profession.
I’m grateful for my team, who are also my friends. Together we are a strong force that can work through this and come out whole on the other side. (With a mandatory happy hour when the bars open again!)
If you are leaders of a Radiation Department, I ask that you check on your people. (Thank you, Karen) I ask that you don’t forget what it’s like on the front line. I ask that you understand that we may be on edge, but we are trying our hardest to get through. I ask that you have grace with us. I ask that you don’t forget that being a Radiation Therapist is just a portion of our lives – we are also spouses, parents, friends, and right now, homeschoolers. We appreciate your efforts, and we know you appreciate ours.
I love being a Radiation Therapist, even during a pandemic. We all have the right to be scared, but I am so very proud to be part of a profession that is also beyond brave, compassionate, devoted, and selfless.