UNDER A COBALT MACHINE

a writing by Elizabeth Padillo Olesen

I count everyday how many times I have been placed under the rays of this machine. Today is the tenth time and tomorrow I will count it to be number eleven and on Friday it will be number fourteen. And then there is a break of two days in a week-end. I can relax. I can breathe deeply
and touch my cat and remove the dead plants in the clay pots, plants which look dead and decayed after the hard long winter.

I have not even painted for sometime. The paints and brushes have waited for me but they remain idle during this period when I continue to count the long yet short days. Once in a while, reading of poems, blogs and stories at voicesnet.com entertains me. Responses of friends, sisters and brothers in the pen inspire and make me smile. It is a good way to keep me going, entertained and busy on top of the hours I spend each day for my job.

And another week will come. I have to count the days by my fingers, calculate how many days more of this kind of exposure until I reach number 33. Then the last day of the 24th of February will come. It will be my last day under the radiation of this machine. I know I will receive a Danish flag. Patients like me who go through this treatment will say their congratulations. I have seen it happening for others. I ask myself. Can I have the patience to wait and count? Then I smile. I need to keep my patience and hope in tact.

Every time I take a bus to the hospital, I try to recall the sounds and buzzes of the machine hovering over me. I think these sounds are now in my head. They make me think of side effects. I hear myself calling to God to be with me in the short minutes when I am left alone in that room and then I hear the door opening again when attending nurses come back and announce that it’s over. Then I smile, a sign of relief that an ordeal of 4 to 10 minutes is over. Every second comes and goes. Every ordeal has its beginning and an end.

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January 24, the 10th day of radiation therapy

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