a Radiation Therapist: during Covid-19

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I haven’t posted in awhile… for a few reasons.  Mostly, life.  Over the last couple months, I have relocated and am part of a new Radiation team.  Also, my last post was wildly loved, beyond anything I could have ever dreamed of… and I’m so grateful, but kind of intimidated.

That being said, 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 so.much.worse.

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.

Stay safe.

itsthejourney_siggy

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life.food.adventure & a cup of coffee… A blog about life, love, creativity, home, food, Radiation Therapy, wine, step-parenting, weight loss, Jeeps, fitness, running, traveling, entertaining, and… cats. Join me in embracing the chaos.

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23 Comments Add yours

  1. Em Stafrace says:

    Hunnie, you are amazing! You already know I feel that way about Radiation Therapists, you guys save lives you guys saved mine. It’s ok to feel worried its not being selfish either. Experiencing those thoughts and feelings only heightens the situation we all find ourselves in, it keeps us accountable and safe, if you didn’t think this way you would become complacent. Thank you for caring, thank you for providing the support and expertise that you have, you are doing an amazing job and you are an amazing bunch of people, my heroes. Hugs to you too sweetie, stay safe. xox

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw Em… you are an amazing survivor and I’m proud to call you a friend! Hugs from across the world! Stay healthy ❤️

      Like

    2. Gloria Sites says:

      So well written and heartfelt. My heart goes out to you and to all that are in professions that need to be on the “front lines”. Know that there are those who pray daily for you even though we don’t know you all by name. We lift you up to a heavenly father who cares when one sparrow falls from a tree, who knows the number of hairs on each of our heads (or lack thereof) and who understands what it is like to lose his only son. I pray that your heart and life be touched by the reality of his presence and that with it will come peace. You are loved….not only by your family and friends, but by the one that knew you in your mother’s womb and knew your name before you breathed your first breath. You are also loved and appreciated by multitudes of people. God bless you and yours and thank you for sharing your heart.

      Like

      1. This is wonderful… thank you so much!

        Like

  2. Kendra says:

    This is perfect. I feel you wrote all of my thoughts for me. Praying for you and your team. Thank you for this!!!

    Like

    1. Praying for you and yours as well! We’re in this together!

      Like

  3. Debbie Moriarty says:

    God bless you and your team. I have been a nurse member of a Radiation Oncology Team. I’m unable to work right now and wish I could be with them. I’m also, selfishly, glad I can’t.
    So bless you. I will add you to my prayers for safety and health of our Teams.

    Like

    1. Thank you so much… we will take any and all prayers! Be safe!

      Like

  4. Kathy says:

    Well said. Mirrors much of my experience. Thank you.

    Kathy RTRT

    Like

    1. Many blessings to you Kathy! Be safe ❤️

      Like

  5. Cindy says:

    What a remarkable post. First of all thank u for all u and your team do. One can’t help but to hear your words and pray u and your dear patients all stay safe. They r lucky to have u and so are we all. Your all amazing
    Thank u thank u for this post as my daughter is part of a radiation team and this sheds some light on how she must be feeling as she is amazing also and goes about her day.

    Like

    1. Thank you for your kind words ❤️ I’ll keep your daughter & her team in my prayers!

      Like

  6. Sharon Lepkowski says:

    Heidi it is amazing what you do and go through I also have a granddaughter that is a radiation therapist she has two young children and she’s a single mom I worry about her every day and her children I can’t be around them right now she won’t allow me to she don’t want me to get sick you people are a heros In my book keep up the good work and stay safe

    Like

    1. I’ll definitely keep your granddaughter and her family in my prayers. Scary times for sure! Many blessings to you ❤️

      Like

  7. Sherry Laniado says:

    Thank you for writing this wonderful dedication, confession, and heart warming truth about working in a hospital during this pandemic. I have worked as an Oncology Social Worker for many years in a Radiation Oncology Dept. with a spectacular staff of radiation therapists. I wish that I was still working with them, but am currently disabled and can’t work. I miss the patients, who are incredible survivivors, and miss the comraderie of the radiation therapists who are so generous and caring, and the support staff who contribute by supporting the staff and patients. I wish that I could be there to help at this most difficult time. But I certainly know of the internal arguments and torments that the therapists suffer. The pandemic only makes it harder and more dangerous. I appreciate this sincere letter that shines a hopeful light upon great people in a wonderful profession. God bless you and stay well.

    Like

    1. Thank you for the kind words and thoughts and prayers! ❤️

      Like

  8. Marnie says:

    My daughter is a radiation therapist. I love and admire her deeply. I respect and admire all those who work in our health system, God bless you all with great abundance and keep your strong and well.

    Like

  9. Valerie Kidwell says:

    Thank you. My brother is a radiation therapist, and I am so grateful to you for sharing what this is like for you, so that I can better understand what it is like for him.

    Like

  10. Sharon Thackston, RT(R)(T) says:

    Heidi,
    Great article and very well written. It must be very difficult to show up every day during this time that leaves one so anxious. Your medical center is known for staying strong, it’s one of the things they do best. Another thing they are good at is the staff is there for each other, sometimes you just have to lean a little bit more on each other, just like a family does.
    I too was a member of your current team, retired 6 months ago. It is an awesome team and one that will support you, I think they have found their jewel to add to it!
    May God bless you and my other past co-workers/ friends, grant you peace to carry out your daily duties and safety for yourself and your family when delivering the excellent care that department is known for.
    Heck, your all heroes with big super capes on as far as I’m concerned. Stay well.

    Like

    1. This makes my heart warm Sharon! Thank you for your kind words, support, thoughts, and prayers. It makes me proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with this team. They’re amazing and I’m blessed!

      Like

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