“OK, doc… Give it to me straight!”
Alright, I didn’t say it quite like that – but I did ask the consultant radiologist at Blackburn Hospital to be honest with me during our meeting to discuss my cancer treatment this afternoon.
He certainly did that. And then some.
My treatment will most likely begin the week after next, when I will have to attend five radiotherapy sessions per week – Monday to Friday – at Royal Preston Hospital. On one of those days – most likely Wednesday – I’ll be treated with chemotherapy as well.
It’s an all out attack on the cancer in my system.
But, there are one or two things that need to be done first…
I had dental x-rays taken at the hospital last week and, today, I saw the ENT department’s resident dental surgeon for a check-up. He explained that radiotherapy can and will attack the teeth of cancer patients – although no-one knows exactly why.
The challenge is to identify any weaknesses in the teeth before treatment begins to minimise complications afterwards. The result – I’ve got one dodgy tooth that will be removed next week.
I also have two baby teeth left with no adult versions queued up behind them, but they’re staying for the time being.
The dentist went into a lot of detail. He told me that the radiotherapy will effectively kill my lower jaw, but that it will take years to die. As a result, I may suffer from dental problems for the rest of my life.
There’s a happy thought.
I also have to have a metal cage/mask moulded to fit my head before I can have my radiotherapy. They showed me a sample. At first, I hoped I was being fitted for some kind of titanium body armour (well, normal guy plus radio waves does equal superhero), but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
I also have to have a feeding tube inserted through my skin and directly into my stomach. The reason, because it won’t be too long before I can’t drink, chew or swallow. So, I’ll need to be fed liquids through my tube.
“You’re going to be ill,” the consultant told me. “Very ill.” In fact, he went on to say that, no matter how bleak and horrible he makes this sound, it’s going to be at least a hundred times worse.
Here are a few highlights…
- You’ll feel like you’ve got sunburn on the inside.
- The outside of your neck will burn and blister.
- After a week or two, you won’t be able to drive. Or work.
- Or talk.
“If there was any alternative to what you’re about to go through,” he said, “I would urge you to take it. I would tell you to run now, and not look back.”
“But, there isn’t an alternative. You have to go through this.”
I have to admit – I like him.
Would anyone mind if I crapped my pants?
Six weeks of radio and chemo, followed by at least a three month recuperation period. Then speech therapy and further dental work, if necessary.
There goes 2016.