Follow by Email

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Radiation Oncologist 2

This morning Al drives me to South Brisbane where I have my planning meeting at Southern Radiation Oncology Services.

I had a deep but unfulfilling sleep last night and wake feeling very dizzy.

In the car, I realise I am exhausted and wonder how I am going to get through the rest of the day. I'm meeting my sisters later, for a movie, maybe lunch but I feel disoriented and I'm having difficulty keeping my eyes open.

We arrive on the dot and Al drops me off as there is no point him being there.

This place is to become very familiar to me over coming weeks and is located in a street where roadworks are in progress so it all looks a bit crazy.

People receiving treatment and their taxi services receive free parking as part of the deal so I suppose that is one good thing.

I present myself at the front counter and am directed downstairs to Level c where treatment facilities are located.

At another counter, I'm given some paperwork to fill in and ask the lady how long I'll be. To my dismay, she says 'one to two hours'.

I repeat "One to TWO HOURS!!" and she clarifies, "Just over an hour." Okay that's better.

Then I'm directed to the nurse named Bronwyn who obviously doesn't remember me (I'm just another bald head in the crowd) and says exactly the same thing she said last time: "Bronwyn, spelt the same... there aren't a lot of us around."

She's lovely and friendly and, to be honest, a little disheveled like a lot of these wonderful hard working nurses I meet. She is hard not to like.

I'm handed another form and dutifully go and sit in the waiting room. I make myself a cup of tea and fill in the paperwork. I've brought my Kindle so bury myself in Keith's life story.

About 40 minutes since I arrive, I am called in and am taken through a sliding door immediately abutting the waiting room. I have no idea what to expect.

There are two nurses who lead me through, an older one called 'Mary' and another whose name tag I can't read, but she's young and pretty.

They are friendly and engaging and lead me into a room where there's a huge machine. I'm told I'm to have a CT Scan, something I've never had before but I think Harry had one years ago when he had a bad infection.

The first thing they do is produce a small digital camera and they take a picture of me.

Next I have to undress. I'm wearing a dress which is the wrong thing to wear as the bit they need to scan, obviously, is my chest.

There's some argy bargy as I learn there are no changing rooms here so they just hold up a sheet while I disrobe and take of my bra. It really feels odd because I'm standing in a room with two strangers under an unforgiving neon light.

Part of the CT Machine is a bench on which is a white sheet. As I'll discover, the sheet assists the nurses in making the small adjustments they need in positioning you correctly.

I lie down and I have to say, it's really quite uncomfortable as my neck is arched over this hard bit and my bum is wedged against another hard bit to stop me sliding down.

I have to take off my gold necklace but can leave my gold earrings in.

All through the process, the nurses do a good job of telling me exactly what is happening, although I have to ask questions to find out why.

Once I am properly positioned, they go to either side of the machine and read out some measurements indicating, I suppose, where the geographical positioning of my torso.

As if by magic, my radiation oncologist, Dr Cox materialises. I give her a warm greeting but there's no small talk as a green marker is produced and I feel her making some marks on my chest. She draws a dotted line marking a parallelogram, ending with a flourish.

Just as quickly as she materialised, she dematerialises and then the younger nurse is placing a piece of clear plastic over the area. I'm told they are tracing the marking.

I ask why and it's explained that this provides a templated outline for some gel material that's to be fabricated and will be placed over that area so it matches the shape.

Then the nurses place stickers on the area, marking entry and exit points I guess.

There's a lull in the activity as we're waiting for this gel stuff it seems, so I ask Mary what the difference is between "radium" treatment and radiotherapy as I hear a lot of older cancer patients talk about this "radium".

While we wait, Mary explains that radium used to be the treatment they used in the old days. They were part of what was known as 'live materials' treatment involving either radium or cobalt. She says it used to be very laborious and time consuming for the ladies, especially when the substances were approaching the end of their half-lives. Interesting.

A few minutes later, the said gel material is brought in from a room I can't see - it's like magic, abracadabra! - and it's placed over the area that Dr Cox has marked out. Mary shows it to me and I see the shape is quite thin.

Now I'm ready to be scanned and the bench moves slowly under the white arch of the machine.

"You must work with some large women," I observe.

"Oh yes, and some big men. You're a lightweight by comparison," the younger nurse says.

"Has anyone ever got wedged here?" I joke and Mary says she did. We have a laugh over that one.

Now I'm all set and the two nurses leave the room, telling me not to move and that the procedure will only take a few second.

They're right. It does actually only take maybe one, maybe two minutes.

The bench I'm lying on moves slowly back and forth under the white semi-circle that arches over me. There's a kind of glass strip on the edge and it looks like little laser lights are chasing each other over this.

Unlike the MRI scanner, the machine is quiet.

"All done!" I hear as the nurses re-enter.

The last step in this process is that I am to be tattooed! Mary says I'll feel four pin pricks

"Can you tattoo a heart saying Mum?"

"No, I'm not that artistic," says Mary. "Now the first one will hurt the most because it's near your sternum."

She's not kidding! I feel four sharp jabs.

"I can't believe people put themselves through this on purpose." I say. "The only tattoo worth getting is the one you regret."

And so it is done. Another plastic drawing is made of the area and I can now get changed.

Soon I am speaking to Dr Cox in the waiting room (Yes, it's odd isn't it? She'd discussing my medical details in a public place.)

My first radiation zap will be on March 19th.

She goes through the kind of cancer I have (multi centric, lobular - she describes it as "the insidious kind")

She goes through all the side effects I can expect - in my case mainly skin irritation and fatigue.

At this point I receive one piece of good news. I thought I would be radiated from the front, but Dr Cox says she's going in from each side (sounds like a battle manoeuvre doesn't it?)

This means that my heart will not be affected.

Dr Cox also says that, as I have a small frame, the treatment will not be as toxic to me (a smaller area is involved) So you see, there's another good thing about being on the slimmer side.

Because I'm not that fat, it means she can get access to the area without affecting my ticker. It also means I don't get wedged in CT Scanners!

I ask her if it's likely I'll be able to undertake any sport during treatment and explain my desire to return to refereeing.

And now I get the second piece of good news. She strongly encourages me to get back to my normal routine as quickly as possible and, if that involves activity, all the better.

After Dr Cox, I am then lead into another room by a lady called Narelle who has to tee up my appointments. I have to pick a timeframe, rather than a specific time slot. The mornings are not available as they're left for ambulance, Gold Coast and other entries. So after some discussion, I choose the 12 noon to 3 pm time slot.

Keep in mind, I have to drive in EVERY day, for treatment that goes for 15 minutes and allowing some time for sitting around.

It's kind of depressing, the way this treatment will suck time. But I suppose, I am giving time so I can buy some time. That's one way of looking at things.

Now I'm all done! My sister, Nicky picks me up and we drive to the Dendy Cinema at Portside.

We have to wait for Fiona who has gone to the wrong cinema so we buy ourselves some groovy shoes that are on sale.

My sister Fiona joins us and we end up just going out to lunch. It's one of life's pleasures going out with my sisters. Really, we can talk about anything.

So by the end of the day I have pepped up because, at the back of my mind, I'm focusing on the positives.

My heart will not be affected! I can referee!

Really, how much better can it get?

No comments:

Post a Comment