Monday, 2 February 2015

Machine Seven and the Radio Stars

I have been getting a fair amount of stick for not blogging of late and as I have to sit upright in a chair for 30 minutes having taken my new and exciting (not) drug to increase my bone density (of which more later...) I thought I could at least make a start. It's either that or start writing an article for a client's newsletter about Leeds City Varieties - actually I'm quite looking forward to that.

The last time I blogged it was at the end of what was not the greatest Christmas ever and the beginning of the three week block of radiotherapy. Part of my difficulty with Christmas - apart from still feeling ill and tired and the enormous pressure of trying to be jolly when I felt anything but - was that I knew that the final block of hospital treatment awaited me in the New Year. Fear of the unknown is a big thing for me now having had a very unpleasant experience with chemotherapy. There are few things in life which, having dreaded them beforehand, actually turn out to be worst than I could have possibly imagined and chemo fits right into that category.

So fearing the worst, radiotherapy turned out to be absolutely fine. Tiring yes, but pain-free and most importantly, nausea-free. Every day for three weeks I was chauffeured to St James' in Leeds (a 50 mile round trip) by two of my lovely children and some entirely amazing friends. The process takes place in the Bexley Wing which is modern and airy and chocker with people with cancer. As you go in, there is what looks like a bus shelter outside the main door where folks in dressing gowns and slippers sit in wheelchairs with drips attached to their arms and smoke. This is my daily moment of silent rage. Hundreds of nursing staff, doctors, radiographers, administration staff and goodness knows who else are trying to save you AND YOU'RE HAVING A FAG?!

The process inside runs like a well-oiled machine - a superbly well-oiled machine. Waiting times are short once you've checked in and whilst I am getting undressed (and admiring my hair growth in the mirror!) someone else is being zapped. And then whilst I am being zapped someone else is getting undressed and into their gown. And so it goes on. The process takes the form of lining up the machine with the dots tattooed on my chest and then the radiographers leave the room whilst I am zapped before manhandling me gently into position for the second lot of zapping. Then it's "See you tomorrow" and off I go. Twelve minutes from leaving the waiting room to returning which is, apparently, not long enough to read the Sports Section according to one of my chauffeurs, Skip. Actually Skip gets the prize for doing the most hospital trips - apart from me and my family - as he has taken me to three different hospitals multiple times. And he took me for a celebratory cream tea afterwards which was utterly delicious.

The Machine 7 team are fabulous and always friendly - thank you to you all for saving my life (fingers crossed). Radiotherapy is the second most effective treatment for cancer - after surgery and well ahead of chemo. The only time I went on a different machine, I looked up at the laser machine above my head and saw it was surrounded by children's stickers. They zap children here too - heartbreaking for them and their parents. It made me want to cry.

So on to my radio stars - the wonderful team of friends who took me to radiotherapy in Leeds, giving up their time, arriving cheerfully on time and entertaining me to Leeds and back. Thank you to children numbers 2 and 3 who did a third of the trips between them and one thing we do know now is that number 3 needs to practise his parking skills in the multi-storey. Not even an attempt at parking but "Mum, would you park please?" and being extra pleased when I reversed in so he could drive straight out. Number 3 also took me for my bone density scan in York on the same day which turned out to have not the result I had hoped for - hence the new drugs (nearly the size of a suppository - but not one, obviously).

Then I have my Thursday girls, Mrs O'Polo and the singing doctor, who decided we should make a whole girly day of it and go out for lunch as well. They made the day such a treat which was most surprising all things considered. And they wore woolly hats so I would not feel conspicuous! And thanks to Ali - we lost the car in the car park because we were chatting so much - especially entertaining. Thanks too to Declan O'Kidney who talked rugby to me throughout the experience - something I miss now my boy is away. To Louise and Gilly, two of my oldest friends - we had a great catch-up. Who would have thought you could cover so much gossip in the space of a couple of hours! And lovely Nige who came on the day of the snow and still got me there on time though it was somewhat stressful. I had been worried that radiotherapy was like snakes and ladders and if you missed one, you slid down the snake and had to start again. I needn't have worried.

So that chunk of treatment is over and apart from nice nursey coming to the house to give me my herceptin injection every three weeks and the daily drugs, the worst is definitely over. Yes, there are scans and oncologists and all that jazz but spring is coming and with that ... hair!

Some of my lovely friends who have absolutely been there for me when I needed them most. 

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