Story by Nashville Public Radio: Nashville Cancer Survivors Find Meaning in Radiation Masks After Treatment
Listen to this powerful story by Nashville Public Radio about cancer survivors who find meaning in Radiation Masks after treatment. Survivors of head and neck cancer sometimes see the mask, which bolts them to a table during radiation, as representing the trauma of cancer. Some patients destroy their mask and others turn into art. Have a look at the beautiful art work at the bottom of the article.
Every 15 minutes, for 10 hours a day, patients walks into a radiation room in the basement of Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. They pick up their mask. Walk to a machine. Lie down underneath.
The masks are made of hard, white plastic and shaped exactly to the patient’s face and shoulders. Nurses fit them, and then, they snap them down.
“It was awful,” says Barbara Blades, who was diagnosed with cancer in her lymph nodes and tongue nine years ago. “It was awful to have your head bolted to a table. Not being able to move. Not being able to move your head.”
One interviewed patient then expresses how scary the experience of wearing a mask could be with claustrophobia. We believe that our Open Face Mask will become the standard in radiotherapy as it leaves most of the face uncovered, thereby reducing the often significant discomfort and high anxiety experienced by claustrophobic and most patients undergoing head and neck Radiation Therapy.
Other survivors say it felt safe in there: The treatment was helping fight their cancer.
“Honestly, when I was under the mask, I found it comforting,” says Steve Travis, who had a tumor on the base of his throat and another on his neck. He used the 15 minutes a day to pray.
But when Travis finished treatment, he became angry at the mask. “It sort of represented everything that had happened for the last four months,” he says. “So I destroyed it.”
He took it out to a family farm in West Tennessee and set it next to a tree. Then he took aim with a shotgun. “Two magazines from a 45 automatic,” he says. “And then, I burned it.”
Travis didn’t hate his radiation mask, he says. He just wanted closure from the cancer.
Listen to the rest of this story here.