As I talked about on Radio 4 the other day, cancer is full of uncertainties. I headed into counselling this morning with my head bouncing around all over the place, nervous about the potential 20% chance of spinal fracture from stereotactic radiotherapy.
Post-counselling, I met with my friend Shelley, and we went for lunch at Puss in Boots, before heading to the Christie at Salford Royal (apparently out of 17 radiotherapy machines in the Trust, this is the only machine that does stereotactic). We settled into the chairs:
Around 3.45pm I was called in, and the process was explained to me – that today is ‘Day 0’ of treatment, so it’s all about collecting images, and setting up … if we’re lucky I would get treated today (obviously I hoped this is what would happen) – but because we’re working with my spine, there’s extra caution in this… it HAS to be correct.
As you can see, it’s not massively comfortable, a rigid board, and a small foam cushion (not particularly squidgy) for the neck, a cushion to hold my knees up, and the mask over my face, but despite residual anxiety, I wasn’t particularly worried about the process.
I lay down, the staff continued explaining what was happening, I was given a choice of music – we decided I might dance too much at pop tunes, so went for classical… and then they came in/out for an hour making small adjustments, by which time the pressure on the right hand side of my neck was intolerable .. I had been told to raise my hands if it got too much, but I so want this done, I kept thinking, just a few minutes more! After the hour, both radiographers and oncologist came back in – and said they wanted to give me a break – the relief of taking that mask off was great – as was sitting up from the cushion!
I headed out to the waiting area where Shelley had paracetamol (must remember to take more painkillers before the event on Monday) and tissues, the desk staff found me a hot chocolate, and shared some of their chocolates with me (I feel very well looked after here).
I then headed back in for another hour, by which time the pain had built up again – and it was nearly 7pm, so they let me out, and said although they’d got within 0.6 degrees they weren’t quite there yet. The first round post break was better than the second, so we hope that Monday we finally get there. Dr Calaco said that in the States where he’s done this, people can be in set up for 3-4 hours, that it was not down to me, and they have got LOADS of information from the imaging they’ve already done, so come back Monday and try again. Bit anxious because if it doesn’t work Monday, there’s a question of whether the stereotactic radiotherapy gets abandoned… and we consider standard radiotherapy (whereas one dose of this is is worth a whole round of standard radiotherapy – and I want that tumour zapped!) … talk about uncertainties …
So this weekend need to chill out (anyone fancy a walk), sleep well, and head back in on Monday (anyone have a relaxed Monday afternoon free, and want to accompany me <edit> this is now sorted) and pray it works! Meantime, we thankfully were late enough to miss the traffic, and home for port, a Magnum, and continuing to rewatch Line of Duty… onto series 3 now! Man, #CancerSucks
Dr Bex Lewis is passionate about helping people engage with the digital world in a positive way, where she has more than 20 years’ experience. She is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University and Visiting Research Fellow at St John’s College, Durham University, with a particular interest in digital culture, persuasion and attitudinal change, especially how this affects the third sector, including faith organisations, and, after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017, has started to research social media and cancer. Trained as a mass communications historian, she has written the original history of the poster Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster (Imperial War Museum, 2017), drawing upon her PhD research. She is Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint, and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst (Lion Hudson, 2014) as well as a number of book chapters, and regularly judges digital awards. She has a strong media presence, with her expertise featured in a wide range of publications and programmes, including national, international and specialist TV, radio and press, and can be found all over social media, typically as @drbexl.