Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Notes from the radiotherapy clinic

I'm settling into the routine of daily radiotherapy. The technicians are fantastically efficient, and if I get there on time, I wait only a minute or two before I'm called through to change into my gown, and then summoned into the treatment room. They mark me up (using the tattoos as a guide) under the infra-red light (I think that's what it is: same technology that reads the barcode on my library card), then leave me as the big machine moves back and forth over me for a short silent burst of radiation on each side of the 'treatment area'. It takes perhaps ten minutes in all, and then I'm free to go.

I'm not there long enough really to meet other patients, but it's easy to see that we are all at different stages. Some are inpatients in dressing-gowns and slippers, some are in wheelchairs, some are accompanied by relatives, some of the women are wearing scarves and beanies. One elderly woman was helped to her taxi by a kindly driver. I'm still sprightly enough: it's too soon, I was told yesterday, to start feeling the fatigue that is the common side-effect of treatment. No one looks particularly gaunt or ill, though; and this is reassuring to me. Someone came in yesterday and updated us on the cricket scores from Adelaide. Today I leafed through the brochure from the wig company.

On the way to the treatment rooms, there is a bank of about seventy little cupboards, each with the name of a patient on the door. Inside is the gown we wear to treatment (so clever, to save the washing and I guess to keep it a little familiar), and yesterday, there were two mini chocolate bars. I asked who had put them there and was told it had become a convention at this hospital. A woman who was delighted to have finished her treatment left a treat for everyone else, and it has become customary. There was another there today. I haven't eaten them yet; and have started stockpiling them in the 'fridge. Something about respect for these gifts, perhaps, in not consuming them instantly?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Gobble them up before they go stale! My radiotherapy at Sydney's RPA had some similar rituals... chocolates for the technicians/nurses on completion. But we had to take our gowns home - no little lockers, drats. I found that daily dose of still darkness in the radiotherapy room very soothing.