Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Undergoing Radiation Again

 "I can't do radiation again," I told my oncologist last month.

"The melanoma is growing. You have new tumors in your pelvis, and we're concerned about the mass in your brain."

I nodded. "But I've done radiation so many times. It doesn't seem to be getting easier."

She turned somberly. "I'm sorry you're going through this, but right now, this is your reality. Think about it. Okay?" She opened the door before leaving the exam room. "It's your choice."

I ended up agreeing to undergo radiation, but after my first session last week, I felt unbearably ill.

"Are you okay?" Trey asked after I'd woken him up for school at 6 a.m. "You're going back to Utah this morning?"

I nodded. "I have to leave for my appointment if I'm gonna get there at 10. You're okay to get Indy up?"

He's the sweetest kid, bringing his little sister to school when I get treatments in Utah. He hasn't complained once.

I gave him a hug and walked toward the door. "Mom?" he said. "I know it's hard, but I... I wanted to thank you for fighting so hard. I don't say it enough, but I love you, and I'm proud you're my mom. If I know how to be strong, well, it's because of you."

Hours later, even after I arrived at the cancer center, tears filled my eyes as I thought about what Trey had said. I changed into a hospital gown and other words drifted into my mind. "If you're ever having a really hard day," a friend named Jeanette had explained, "please open this." She'd mailed me a tiny gift (about an inch and a half long by an inch wide). I brought it with me into the radiation waiting room and stared at it. Maybe this truly was a "really hard day." And before I unwrapped the tiny gift, I remembered my first experience with radiation. 


“I’ll be right here in the waiting room,” Mike had said.

I feigned strength as techs led me into a room with all sorts of large whirring machines and flashing screens. After I rested in something they called a "nest" for my back radiation, they placed a mask over my face and said they'd need to bolt it to the table.

Horrified, I listened as something whirred near my ear—something which sounded suspiciously like a screwdriver.

That’s when my mind went wild. I couldn't do it. I just couldn't. I freaked out so badly that a tech barked urgent orders before more whirring began, and the radiation team removed the mask.

My lips quivered. “I can’t do this! I can’t!” My voice rose to a ridiculous level.

“Listen, Elisa. You have no chance without radiation. No. Chance. Don’t you want more time with your kids and your husband?”

I bawled. “I know I need to do this, but—I feel like I’m getting buried alive or something.”

“Wait,” a tech said. “You heard her talking about her husband. We need to go get him.”

Mike rushed in mere moments later. “Hey. Hey. You’re okay,” he said. Although his face betrayed shock at seeing what radiation entailed, he gently placed a hand on me. “You’re gonna be okay. Don’t worry. I have an idea.”

I nodded and bit my lip.

“Close your eyes, Elisa.” I breathed in, shut my eyes, and listened to his voice.

“Okay. I need you to imagine you’re a violin... ”

I hung onto his every word. As his deep voice relayed minute details about what I should visualize, his love encased me instead of the body mold.

“You’re getting fixed up right now. They’re going to shine up your wooden surfaces. Work on each part.”

The techs gently pressed the mask against my face.

“They’re polishing and refining you, tuning your strings, adjusting your bridge.”

I breathed strong, steady breaths.

“You’re just going to get fixed up a bit. You’re a violin.”

“We need to step out now,” a tech said after screwing the mask back in place. “She’s quiet this time. She seems okay.”

The table slid, rocking me as it jostled. More lights bored forward, penetrating even the face cage and my closed eyelids.

I imagined that God inspected every part of a violin. The heavy encasings around my legs buffed my surfaces and stained my edges. God would come so I could be perfected, cleansed, and refined.

When the radiation machine stopped, I somehow embodied peace.

Mike’s voice echoed off the walls as he rushed into the room. “You’re done! You did it!”

When they removed the mask, a man asked Mike, “How did you think of that? How? It was brilliant, really.”

“I don’t know. It just came to me.”


That happened in 2020, yet here I sat in 2023, almost as terrified as the first time. I closed my eyes and prayed that God would help give me strength, and then I opened the tiny gift from my friend, Jeanette. I stared in disbelief at the miniature violin in my hand. She’d sent me a beautifully detailed charm that reminded me of Mike and his words from almost three years ago: "You’re a violin [...] They’re going to shine up your wooden surfaces. Work on each part.”

"Elisa, are you ready?" a tech asked.

With tears in my eyes, I responded. "Actually, yes. Yes, I am."


  1. You are such a special person. I wish I could have gotten to know you more when I worked with you. We had a 10 year old son who went through cancer treatment for 5 years. The strain and worry it put on us was unimaginable. But your fight has been remarkable. I love your words.

  2. You are great. If somebody can do this you can Elisa. Trey and Indy are your youngest and they will do everything for you. So keep your head high Mrs. Magagna and show the world your faith, sense of humor, your funny side, your sensitivity, your fear and your joy.You have so much joy in your life with the kids and Mike that you will never give up. Its like a rollercoaster but you win, there are many bad days but if you continue to fight there will be cure for you some day. I am sure. I was 25 years old and doctors told me to die because treatment doesnt work. I dont believed that and it saved my live, I had a lot to do. I healed myself- My sickness was so rare only one Professor in Germany knew it. It was a rare tropical desease. It took 25 years !! but I live. I had many ups and downs, my life was over at this young age, I layed down in bed about 20 years. I had vertigo 24 hours a day. many times I would give up but I had a cat to look after. It was a nightmare for my parents. I did a lot to heal myself. Had a psychologist by a telephoncall at first, eat absolut heahlty food (NO SUGAR) and had many help with natur things. I can now walk again,sit on a chair and go shopping, drive a car..... go on holidays! I am healed about to 70 prozent. So Elisa everything is possible- You can do a lot for yourself.First and important thing is to eat no sugar because this is fire to cancercells. And then eat only good food. This will help you the most. I love you.

  3. I have never witnessed such courage and a vast amount of talent in one person. You are beautiful inside and out and Mike and your children are exceptional. God bless you and know that he is walking with you. When times get tough, just remember he’s carrying you. All the best. ❤️