Radiotherapy Day One

Day 1 radiotherapy. Pleasant bus ride. Arrive early. Brought good book, as suggested by several people. The book is actually a course of writing exercises, so it will be accompanying me every day.

See radiotherapist. She’s cool. Turns out she’s the union rep (unions and lefty politics usually come up in conversation pretty quickly when I am the patient). 

Run through the forms and questions again. If I had a pound for every time I have told a member of medical staff my date of birth, I could probably buy a small pharmaceutical firm by now.

Also run through the potential side effects of the treatment again. It seems that radiotherapy may cause my boobs to swell. Given the size they already are, I think a warning to low-flying aircraft might be in order. I have visions of me going into the radiotherapy room but being unable to leave afterwards.

There is a list of my treatment times for the next four weeks. They are all on weekday mornings, but at slightly different times, and may change. Oh well, it’s not like I’m doing anything else.

The first three weeks will treat the whole of my right breast. The fourth week will target the area where my tumour was. This should kill any lurking cancer cells in the area. It is reckoned that radiotherapy reduces the chances of the cancer coming back by 50%.

Into the room. Strip off top half. Lie down on machine (pictured). Get shuffled about a bit, until the lasery things line up with the tattooed dots.

Lights turned down. This is really comfortable and relaxing. I check whether it is OK to fall asleep. Yes, they confirm, so long as you don’t move.

Reassuring me that if I have any problems, I can wave and they will come to my rescue, the radiotherapists (two by now) leave the room. The machine whirrs and buzzes and moves around a bit, all the time firing its magic rays at my right boob. After about ten, very relaxing, minutes, it’s done. That’s it, really. I can go home. Same again tomorrow.

But I’m going to do a couple of extra things while I’m here. The treatment is quite likely to cause skin irritation, and being big-breasted, my underboobs are already vulnerable to that, so I go see the nurses to ask about measures to prevent and alleviate this. I come away with advice, several tubes of cream and some padding. The watchword of the next few weeks is ‘Moisturise!” I feel like Cassandra from Doctor Who.

My final stop involves taking the lift up to the cancer ward on the seventh floor, where those nice people from Macmillan provide free complementary therapies every Monday. I’m going for a massage! And very nice it is too. It’s the first time I’ve had a massage fully clothed, lying on my back on  a reclining chair, but 40 minutes of attention to my shoulders, arms and legs is just what the doctor ordered. 

And just as a bonus, the lunch trolley does its rounds of the ward while I am there and I get some sandwiches, a banana and a coffee. Life’s good.

As Bart’s is conveniently located a very pleasant walk from the London Metropolitan Archive, I decide that the exercise and the brain activity will do me good, so I stroll up there and bury my head in century-old documents for a few hours before going home. The aforementioned side effects tend to kick in after the first week, so I’m going to do stuff like this while I still can.

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