How do I know for sure? Well at the grand old age of 53 and a half (ALWAYS remember the half) I had to have a pregnancy test this afternoon before I could proceed with my Radiotherapy planning appointment and it had to be negative. It was.
So that’s the other GREAT piece of news. I got a call yesterday from the Churchill Hospital in Oxford asking if I was able to attend a last minute Radiotherapy planning assessment or was it too short notice? It certainly wasn’t and I can’t tell you how lifted Steve and I felt that we had a date for this and that I was on their system.
So we headed over there this afternoon. It’s going to be a 65 mile round trip each day for 20 days on mostly single carriage way roads so not the easiest of journey’s to predict time wise. Leaving in plenty of time gave us a chance to try and gauge how long we’re going to need to leave to arrive stress free and then tackle the parking shortage issues that they have there and still be on time. Only time will tell on that one.
Of course I needed to nip to the bathroom as soon as we got there. Big mistake.
It didn’t take us long to find the Radiotherapy Department in the Cancer and Haematology wing. I suddenly found myself really apprehensive about walking in there, not certain what I was going to be confronted with. It was actually ok and just like a regular waiting area but with traffic lights showing you how each of the six scanners they have there was performing.
Firstly we saw a lovely Radiographer called Bronwyn who talked us through the Radiotherapy treatment schedule, side effects and self-care. She then explained that as pregnancy and Radiotherapy are not healthy partners anyone who is aged between 12 (12?!!) and 55 and is having treatment has to prove that they are not pregnant before anything further can be done.
And this is where I realised that my earlier dash to the facilities had been in error. Glancing at my face Bronwyn said ‘Don’t worry, we only need a dribble’. Thankfully, cos that’s what she got. And it was enough to confirm that Ben will remain an only child (Please don’t feel sorry for him or nod your head and think ‘Oh well, he’s an only child you know’- that drives me mad and currently I don’t need anger management to be added into the mix).
Once the non-pregnancy status was confirmed Bronwyn handed me over to another Radiographer and I was taken to the scanning machines for measurements and planning. Essentially they are trying to get you established in a position that means that the high dose radiation hits exactly the right place every single time. Green laser lights are all over the room and I was told that the patient needs to be like a spirit level, hence all of the manipulation of your position. With three people working, moving, drawing on you, pushing and sticking bits of tape and wires on the area to be treated it’s all a bit of a manic time, but eventually all the measurements work out. All this time I was led flat on a table with my arms held above my head, and that’s the killer almost, you just want to bring them back down and shake to get rid of the pins and needles but you mustn’t.
Everyone was constantly checking that I was ok and comfortable as you have to hold that position whilst the radiation is on and not move. If you think you are going to sneeze you have to try and warn someone.
I had some topless photos taken (deep joy and not mortifying at all) to make sure that we can replicate that position each time.
At this point, everyone apart from the human spirit level (me) left the room and the machine started up. That’s a really weird sensation and noise and you’re told that the table will move and the scanner will circulate around you 3 times. Then you’re given permission to fidget and shake those arms. It’s almost painful to bring them back down but the actual Radiotherapy is painless.
This film is a good overview of parts of the process I’ve been through today but thankfully without the mask and the body hair………………
What did hurt slightly was getting the tattoos. I say hurt, but sting is a better description. I now have 3 of them. One in the centre of my sternum (between the booblets) and one either side, so that they permanently indicate my position on the scanning table. Along with my scars, these are going to be my reminders of the great work that that initial cyst did in discovering something that could, but hasn’t, changed my life too greatly.
So I’m tatted up. Who’d a thought it? (Geddit George and Karen? 😉 )
And the final SOOPER DOOPER piece of news is that I have my Radiotherapy schedule also now. I start on 6th August and end on 2nd September.
It’s been a good day and I’m grateful to everyone who made it happen.