Walking into the radiotherapy treatment room is a bit like walking onto a sci-fi set. There is an adjustable bed in the centre with various attachments, a number of computer monitors on stalks on the walls, lots of lights and a camera set in the ceiling and finally the star of the show…the Linear Accelerator!
Having removed the necessary items of clothing and put my boobs on the chair, I climbed onto the bed. My special attachment was a stirrup for my left arm to keep it up and out of the way during treatment. It was much like those used in other tests us ladies have to undertake!
Once I was settled the radiographers then used my tattoo markers to line me up on the bed. The general lights were then dimmed and green ones now generated a grid across my body. One of the radiographers called out the required grid settings while the other checked that this matched where I was on the bed. (As the room was quite cold they also kindly draped my cardigan over the half of my body that was not being treated, to keep me warm). Once they were happy that I was correctly positioned they left the room, but I was constantly observed by cameras in case I was to do something silly like fall off of the bed!
Things then became even more like the sick bay on the starship Enterprise. The very large, circular, stainless steel head of the linear accelerator moves around to it’s first position and delivers it’s rays with an ominous hum, whirrs and then moves into the next, and this dance continues until the treatment cycle is complete. For me the last couple were delivered from under the bed so that they could get right up into my armpit! In my head I could see any remaining cancer cells splatting like paint-ball pellets, so I smiled all the way through the procedure!
The treatment only takes a few minutes and is not at all painful. I was however, advised to use E45 cream three times a day, drink two litres of water daily and try not to wear tight clothing that would rub on the treatment area. This is all to help the skin to cope with the treatment as it can suffer quite badly. Also to keep up my daily exercises as everything was likely to get very tight again.
Being the good patient that I am I did all this and it paid off, as on my last appointment I was told that my skin was less inflamed than they would expect at that stage. The worst effects actually happen in the 7-10 days after the end of treatment but should completely clear within six weeks.
Halfway through my three week course I was given a review, which for me was a wonderful opportunity to talk to someone about all the treatment I had had. Yet again I was reassured, given confidence and have another person I can ring at any time with concerns.
I need to take a moment here to say how wonderful all the staff have been throughout all my treatments and appointments. I have been made to feel like they all truly care about how I am and want to do their best to help me. With our NHS struggling with a lack of facilities and heavy workloads for all the staff, I really appreciated them taking time to care and can’t praise them all highly enough!
Oh and I never thought I would be so happy to have bingo wings, but as I am at a high risk of developing lymphoedema, due to my lack of lymph nodes, all the time those wings are wobbling I know I am still ok!
NB: I have contacted the lovely people from Knitted Knockers and they were very happy for me to include a link to their site.