The Gazebo in the Self-Realization Fellowship on Sunset has intensified my radiation (Photo: William R. Potter)

Wordplay is one of my favorite varietals of play and I’ve been having fun experiencing new words and avoiding others over the course of the last few months. One word I haven’t played with too much is the ‘C’ word. I do recall a rhyme I made years ago which was about ‘Lance Fighting the Cance’ and am grateful to the Livestrong Foundation for supporting my pre-chemo sperm banking costs, an experience deserving of its own essay.

Today lets play with the word ‘radiate’. I have been ‘radiating’ daily for the last 5 weeks and I think it’s really working, I think I am actually starting to truly radiate. Tis strange since what I call radiating is what most people call radiation treatment but I am feeling the double meaning hard and have been integrating a few additional practices to shine as brightly as possible through this experience.

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Close up of my radiating mask (Photo: Cassandra M. Montoya)

Lets double click on what radiation treatment is for a moment. Every weekday around 10:30am I travel to a building on the Kaiser Permanente LA campus that houses the radiators. I get into a line and wait for Audrey or Mark to call me up, when they do we have a lil chit chat about our respective outfits, the weather or the vintage patchwork tapestry on the wall behind them as they check me in and put on a plastic hospital style wrist band. When they’re done I thank them and go wait for one of two extremely slow elevators to open (no stairwells go down to the radiation waiting area but there is a stairway that goes up and out to the street, protected by a weak emergency siren that seems unnecessary).

I land in the ‘Atrium’ level which is a waiting area two stories underground with some nice skylights shining light in from the street. Two LED boards show a list of numbers, letters and names to call up patients as their radiator becomes available. My radiator ‘1B’ is generally on time or ahead of schedule so I rarely wait for more than a few minutes in the atrium. When I do have time in there I get a chance to quietly observe families and individuals awaiting treatment, most of them seemingly older than me, many quiet, all radiant in their own way.

Chillin in mummy pose ready to radiate (Photo: William R. Potter)

I show up at my treatment station greeted by familiar faces, a team of doctors and nurses who run my machine. They ask me my full name and birthday and I proceed into the treatment room, the lights generally dimmed, often with my requested ‘jazz’ music playing. The Jazz they play is a loose interpretation and runs the gamut from Sade to Kenny G and everything in between. I take off my hat and necklace, put my bag down and empty my pockets before proceeding to a flat metal table with a curved plastic brace where I lie down and rest my head. Looking up I can see a wood framed light box with images of a cherry blossom tree shining through. Someone from the team puts a triangular tubed leather pillow under my knees which is meant to make me more comfortable but doesn’t seem to do much. The table feels like solid metal covered by a white hospital sheet which perplexes me, why not radiate in softness?

Once on the table my team puts a perforated plastic mask over my entire face and head that fits perfectly to my face and snaps into the table. This mask is meant to hold my head perfectly still while I get blasted with radiation beams from multiple angles. The path of these beams has been carefully designed to zap my tumor in just the right places although I’ve been told it also hits some non tumor cells nearby and exits my head through the other side which has made my forehead a bit red and dry lately. The sound of the beams is like a dentist drill, buzzing from different directions a few feet around my dome. I’ve also lost a bunch of hair in the areas of the path since the beams singe my hair follicles, thus the daily hat.

The procedure lasts maybe 7 minutes total and I normally take deep breaths and affirm things about myself with each breath. ‘I AM IN PERFECT HEALTH NOW’ or ‘I AM UNCONDITIONAL LOVE’, you know, the usual stuff we affirm to ourselves every day. When it’s over the technicians and doctors unsnap my mask, snip off my bracelet and help me off the table and I’m free to roll out using the emergency stairwell.

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Vintage Brooklyn Dodgers Hat currently in rotation during one of my PT sessions (Photo: William R. Potter)

So here’s where the radiating gets exponential:

Bonus One, The Self-Realization Fellowship: Kaiser Sunset just so happens to be next to two major religious institutions, the main Church of Scientology and a Self-Realization Fellowship center with a small meditation garden. I’ve been taking advantage of the SRF gardens for quiet meditation and highly recommend you check it out if you’re in the area. They have a beautiful garden with fountains, a stained glass gazebo, lots of flowering trees, lily ponds and plenty of benches that are almost always empty. Walking into this sacred space I hardly notice I’m on Sunset Blvd and with every moment I feel my energy lighten.

Bonus Two, The Vermont/Sunset Metro Stop: When I was prescribed Keppra, an anti-seizure medication, following my first hospital visit, I was told I couldn’t drive while taking the medication. This has led me to find alternate forms of mobility and I’ve begun to spend a good bit of time taking the LA Metro. Fortunately I can ride my bike, skateboard or walk 10 minutes to a stop right by my house and then it’s about 30 to 40 minutes with one transfer to a stop a few blocks from the radiators at Kaiser Sunset. Experiencing LA life by Metro has changed the way I see the city and provided the opportunity to relax, read, listen to music and podcasts, engage with other riders and experience new faces every day, something my former car-dependent self often missed out on. Additionally I get to walk, skate or bike to the train which increases my joy and boosts the radiating at least 5x. Being outside in the LA sunshine on the streets, moving with the world is a gift.

Cassandra, Ezi and Cielo have been surrounding me with love and light (Photo: Cassandra M. Montoya)

Bonus Three, A Ketogenic Diet: My body is in a state of Ketosis combined with intermittent fasting. This means I don’t eat any sugar, I have about 30 grams of net carbs a day, I eat tons of healthy fats from avocados, nuts, oils and some meat and I don’t eat anything between 8pm and 12 noon. My tumor requires glucose (which comes from sugar and carbs) to grow, in Ketosis I’ve cut off its life source by shifting my body to run mostly on fat. I’ve lost a bit of weight but feel much healthier in my gut and my mind is sharp, I also feel good knowing I’m not feeding the tumor which is awesome.

Bonus Four, Friends: This last bonus applies to just about every piece of the radiating experience. The support of friends who go with me to radiate, help me get groceries and do errands with me, drop by the house on a whim or live with me through this experience (thank you Cassandra, Ezi and Cielo) fills me up with so much love. I am eternally grateful to all of you who have supported me from afar and close by and who have kept me in your prayers and thoughts. I feel you and I love you.

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We are all conduits of light. You can feel it when someone walks into a room and the entire vibe shifts, a smile is a radiator, a laugh, a fun dance move… Living in joy and connecting with our hearts isn’t always easy, especially when the going gets tough or the news is tragic, but I believe being in joy and radiating love from our bodies is a courageous act of defiance against all the toxicity that tries to dim our light. This experience of radiating has reminded me of my responsibility to be in gratitude for the challenges as well as the gifts and find joy in everything that comes my way regardless of the stigma or negativity associated with it.

‘You have a light that’s shining from within, so turn it on you know where to begin.’ (Me, November, 2016)

Ethan Lipsitz is an artist, host, brain cancer survivor and love extremist dedicated to elevating actionable love in every aspect of life.