So, What’s Radiotherapy Like Then?

Lie back, gown down, naked from the waist up but clothed from there down to my shoed feet. It really is most remarkably comfortable. Even my raised arms get cushioned rests that not only bear their weight but also bring my hands together without a hint of pain or even effort.

Two sounds compete. One, the background whirr of presumably the air conditioning, whose breath occasionally registers on my skin and makes me feel even more comfortable, if that were possible. And two, the radio, one of those commercial stations with music that is pretty much guaranteed to offend no-one but will probably inspire no-one either.

Unbreak my heart. The disco version. That always seemed a grating mismatch to me. My memory tells me this was once a rather plaintive ballad, before it got pumped up into a funtime dancefloor filler mixed into a mood that no-one who really wanted their heart to be repaired would feel.

But I digress. The room sounds of this but it smells of nothing. Really, nothing. At all.

Now the third sound joins in: the two radiographers – today, a man and a woman – speaking letters and numbers to each other rather like the dentist does to the dental nurse when they check your teeth one by one. I need to be adjusted a little. A polite request, then firm but gentle hands move my torso a smidgeon to the right, their touch not intrusive or discomforting but simply adding to the feeling of being cared for.

Our best range of used cars is now available with zero per cent finance. The song ended, the ads have begun. The radiotherapists are satisfied that I am perfectly positioned, lined up with my tattooed dots and lines of green light projected through cross-shaped openings in the ceiling and walls and bisecting my body. They take their leave, withdraw to their control tower (OK, more of a cubicle than a tower) and press the Start button.

The third sound now is not the radiotherapists’ voices but the buzzing of the Linac machine. If I wanted to open my eyes, I’d see a big metal disk a few dozen centimetres above me and to my left, with a window in the middle showing its innards, and various bolts and cross-headed screws holding its various bits in place. It looks like it is hovering above me like some device in a sci-fi film, but it is actually attached to a huge machine that stands granite-like behind my head, cradling me while its disk-doctor goes to work.

Ten o’clock. The headines. Farce at the Oscars as … A loud buzz drowns out the rest of the inconsequential story and the disk moves round from my left to directly above my right breast. Occasionally I feel a tiny pin-prick type feeling, but that is no different to the little blips we all feel every day. Go on, stop what you are doing and you will feel one within seconds. I like to imagine, though, that each little feeling is a cancer cell’s dying gasp as the Linac zaps it.

If I look beyond the big metal disk, I see ceiling tiles considerately decorated to look like sky and overhanging boughs. Just as I start picturing myself lying in a sun-bathed, lightly-breezed field, the radiotherapist returns and tells me that we are done for today. All over.

We will do it all again tomorrow.

Download Page Content (.pdf)