If you are having radiation on your neck or head region, chances are you will be fitted for a mask for your radiation treatments. For some people dealing with the mask and being in an MRI machine can bring about claustrophobic feelings. These feelings are extremely common. The following are some tips on dealing with the mask.
1) The feelings of constraint are in your head- nothing bad is going to happen. You lay still every night for hours. It is 20 minutes of relaxation. You deserve relaxation!
2) Struggling with control is natural- having other people strap your face to the table on their time frame is a great way to have a panic attack and start claustrophobic feelings. Radiation time is your time. You are the patient. You can do things during your time frame within reason. My first day was tough because I didn’t want to slow my caregivers down. I put their concerns ahead of mine. I laid down, the next thing I knew I had my face strapped to a table and I lost it. I had to have the mask removed 3 times during my session and I was confident that I was not going to make it through another session. The second day I took control. I asked my radiation technicians to give me a couple minutes by myself and I would call for them. I laid on the table. I put the mask on my face without having it strapped. I just got used to it. I put some pressure on the mask with my hands to simulate the feeling of when the mask was bolted. I got relaxed and focused on my breathing. Then I called the radiation techs in the room when I was ready. They strapped the bolts on the top at first when I told them I was ready. Then I told them to bolt the bottom by my chin. It was a completely different situation when I was calling the shots. I made it through my 20 minutes with flying colors.
3) Create a support system- I thought I was pretty tough so I didn’t want my wife to go with me. That was a mistake. After my lousy first day I asked my wife to go with me. The bottom line- my wife helps me relax better than any drug. I was an idiot for not having her go with me the first day.