I arrived at the Oncology department at the appointed time and sat in the spacious and well-appointed reception area. This is rather plush, I thought. Indeed, although I’ve never experienced private medicine, it seemed to me more akin to a private clinic rather than an NHS facility.
I was called within five minutes of my appointed time and ushered through clean and calm corridors to Radiology where I was met by a smiling blonde lady who told me to take a seat for a moment while they finished with the previous patient.
Two minutes later I myself was in the lead-lined radiology room. I was asked to remove my shirt and to lie down on the bench while they lined me up.
‘This might take a moment,’ they said, giving me the lollipop and and clamping my head to the bench under the mask, ‘but we’ll be as quick as we can.’
The whole team’s demeanour spoke of a deep concern for what they were doing, and having been treated like a piece of meat by the PEG team, in the hands of the gentle radiographers I began to feel like a person once again.
After making sure I was secure and comfortable, they trundled the bench under the great machine that was about to fire X-rays at the cancer on my tongue. The marks on the mask made by the line-up team were accurately aligned with the laser sights on the x-ray machine, and small lead shields to protect my vocal chords and spinal column were taped onto the mask. Then it was time.
A klaxon sounded and I sensed everybody rush out of the room. It was at that moment I realised that I was going to have a beam of something fired at me which, under normal circumstances, I would be insane to get in front of – which, indeed, is capable of causing cancer. Cancer treatment seems to be full of such paradoxes.
After a slight pause there was a buzzing on my left side as a beam of ionizing radiation penetrated my lower jaw and slammed into the cancer. After thirty seconds or so the buzzing stopped and I sensed everyone come back in. I heard the big machine being realigned and after a minute the klaxon sounded again and everybody left once more.
After thirty more seconds of buzzing on my right side, I could hear more footsteps and felt the bench being wheeled round. This was for the final, frontal attack on the cancer, and to irradiate any little colonies that the removal of the lymph nodes had missed.
Once again the buzzing, and then it was over. The mask was unclamped and gentle hands helped me to my feet.
‘Well, that wasn’t so bad,’ I said. ‘I think I can deal with that every day.’
The radiographers smiled knowingly, bade me goodbye and said they’d see me tomorrow.
I drove home, thrilled that the treatment had started and confident that radiotherapy wasn’t as bad as everyone said. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Posted by AndySecombe 12:27:34 26.06.2007;
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