There and Back Again: High Stakes (Radiation: Day 8)


One of these days, I’d like to climb up on the radiation table and lay down in the right position all on my own.

But from the moment I lay my head back on the hard rubber cradle, the lights dim, the green laser beams illuminate, and the radiation technicians start adjusting.

“I need a roll toward me,” Sarah will say to her coworker standing across from her. Sarah’s the one who’s there each day, her work reliable like a clock.

Then she grabs the sheet beneath me and tugs just a little. I lay heavy just like she told me to the first day, and she matches the ink marks on my abdomen to the laser guides beaming from the walls and ceiling.

With a small control box, she moves the bed up or down, tilting this way or that to make sure I am on the table today just like I was yesterday.

And then, since she doesn’t trust her eyes, she leaves the room, the red lights flashing, and takes a low-dose xray to confirm that the radiation treatment will hit the area where the tumor once was, not a kidney, not a liver.

The red light stops, and Sarah comes back into the room. One more tiny adjustment, maybe two, and I am perfect. Ten minutes after I first crawled onto the table, millimeters – maybe inches – from where I placed my own body. Just to the left of center.

Then, even though they go to great lengths to ensure I am in the same position every day, the radiation techs do a dry run, allowing the machine to move all the way around to beneath me on the left, then all the way around to beneath me on the right to be certain the giant orange cylinder will clear the table on all sides.

And before they begin the treatment, just to be sure, they ask me to say my birth date and my name, though they said it themselves when they called me back to the room.

I say it quickly, “Charity Singleton. 10, 24, 70.” But I never mind that they ask.

Every day, they take the same care, make the same precautions.

Because the stakes are high.

I often wonder how people can work in a place where everyone is ill and many die.

In the way they rotate me and check the machine and ask me my name one more time, I find my answer.


I hadn’t really thought about my position on the radiation table as left of center until I read High Calling blogger, Michelle Ortega‘s poem called “To the Left of Center.” She writes,

if you exact with a surgeon’s skill,
to the left of the center,
beneath the bony shield of sternum,
suspended in tough ligament,
nestled in a spongy notch of lung,
you will see the pumping, deep pink muscle
that keeps blood pulsing
through me.

And while I read, I remember the “x” drawn with paint pen on my abdomen, left of my incision, and I remember, that every day they line me up just left of center that way.

Michelle continues,

if you close your eyes and reach me
to the left of the center you will see . . .
broken bodies healing
through Loving support and connected feeling

And I know that left of center is where His love keeps me whole.

Go THERE and visit Michelle Ortega (or visit 3 From Here and There, whose prompt Michelle was writing for), and then come back HERE again!

Join me for regular jaunts around The High Calling network, randomly visiting fellow bloggers, soaking up their words and ideas, and then coming back here to write about them from my perspective.

Each Thursday, consider going “There and Back Again” yourself. It’s simple.

Photo by eviltomthai, via Flickr, used with permission via the Creative Commons License.


Charity Singleton Craig

Charity Singleton Craig is a writer, author, and speaker, helping readers grow in their faith and experience true hope in the middle of life’s joys and sorrows. She is the author of My Year in Words: what I learned from choosing one word a week for one year and coauthor of On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life That Lasts.

  • Megan Willome ,

    In some corners of our country, the words “left of center” would be a bad thing. But not here. Not on that table. Not in that poem.

    • Ann Kroeker ,

      I can’t be there in the room, but I am with you best I can, left of center.

      The Quakers talk of “centering” on Christ. We center on Him, but He is with us, wherever we are positioned in this tilted, off-kilter world. Through Him, through His Spirit, we are tied to one another.

      • Laura ,

        I am so, so grateful for Sarah and the radiation techs who take such care with your body, Charity. Hard as is must be…and this poem? Wow. Heading there. Thank you for always giving such treasure.

        • Megan ,

          Thank you for sharing this. I can’t even explain why, but thank you.

          • michelle ortega ,

            Hello, Charity, I am humbled and so grateful that my words reached you today. I will keep you lifted up in prayer as you walk this journey knowing our gracious Father holds us with every breath we take.

            • Linda ,

              Just to whisper how absolutely beautiful this is Charity. I sense something deep happening just left of center in you.

              • Susan DiMickele ,

                Bless you. This is so rich and so painful.

                I’m headed there and back again.