It was my fourth radiotherapy session at the Rosemere Cancer Foundation in Preston today.
I was feeling tired and run down following yesterday’s inaugural chemotherapy treatment, but a visit from my amazingly good friend and former Buddy cast member and London flatmate, Alison, cheered me up to the point where I could finally drag myself off the couch and take on the world.
We had to go to Burnley Hospital first for Kirsty’s latest appointment with her Crohn’s specialist (we’re such a healthy family!), then on to the wilds of Preston where, thanks to Kirsty being seen very quickly for a change, we arrived at 4pm for my 5.30pm appointment.
No problem. We grabbed a drink each, and settled down to read in the waiting room.
But, the eagle-eyed radiographers spotted that I had arrived far too early and hurried out to check that everything was OK. I explained that were were just running ahead of time for once, and thanked them for their concern. They said they would try to get in me in early, if they could.
I was seen at 5.35pm. Ah, well.
You may not know this but, as a lighting source in the room of big, scary machinery that fires plasma throwing stars at you (or something), there is a section of the ceiling that is made to look like the sky. You can just spot the tops of trees waving high above, and a few cotton wool wispy clouds floating across the clear blue sky.
I’m not allowed to take my camera or phone into the room, so this isn’t the exact ceiling arrangement – but it’s the closest I can find online.
Let me tell you, when you’re lying on the thin bed-plank above, your face pinned to the end of it by a tightly-fitting meshed mask, looking up to see this albeit artificial sky can be very comforting.
That is, until you’re raised higher and that three-pronged demon of technology starts rotating around your face, shrieking and buzzing and slowly obliterating the beauty of nature like a scene from your own personal Independence Day movie.
But, apart from that – it’s great.
I had to have my mask re-seated twice today. Your head and neck have to be in EXACTLY the same position at every session in order for the treatment to work. This ain’t no blunderbuss approach to burning out the badness within you, boy.
The team of three work to get me in the right spot, using fine-tuned laser-guided measuring equipment (really), and then they all bugger off to the safety of the next room while the ‘you really don’t want to be around when this shit kicks off’ alarm sounds.
First, the machine revolves around you to take a three or four minute scan and check that you’re millimetre perfect, position wise. If not, the trio of people to whom I will never be able to repay this debt hurry back in, unclip the mask and we start all over again.
There comes a point when, after the initial scan, that you lie there in silence, praying that it’s all looking good on the bank of screens in the next room. If it is, the machinery kicks up again, twisting and turning and sounding like the Large Hadron Collider‘s attempt at an impression of a 1995 Packard Bell 56k baud rate modem.
That’s your actual radiotherapy taking place right there.
If not, the radiographers come back in, and we try yet again.
It’s a painstaking business and, no matter how frustrating it can feel for me, I try to remind myself that these wonderful people have been doing the same thing all day for patients just like me, trying hard to cure us of this terrible disease.
And, on only my fourth day, with a slightly different team on duty at each appointment so far, they still spotted that I had arrived early and came out to the waiting room to ask if I had any problems they could help me with.
How utterly amazing are people like that?