Up in the air, or six foot under?

Déjà vu! I’ve just had my second radiotherapy planning session, the first one was last year.

Once again I was chauffeur driven by my partner to the Berkshire Cancer Centre in Reading. Despite being very familiar familiar with the route after so many journeys there, we had Google Maps at the ready just in case we both simultaneously had a senior moment and got lost. 

I was geared up for a 2pm appointment and I think I might even have been early (I always try to be, but rarely succeed) had there not been a message waiting for me on the answerphone when I woke up bleary eyed at the crack of half past nine, which asked me to come in as soon as I could for a kidney function blood test first. I don’t remember having a kidney function blood test as part of last year’s planning session but this year, unlike last, I was going to have contrast dye injected straight into a vein, via a cannula, during the planning CT Scan, so I think it was to see if my kidneys could handle it. As the dye goes in it makes you feel like you’re peeing yourself. I’ve had that sort of scan before but, if you haven’t, the first time can be unsettling as you get that warm feeling in your loins that conjures up childhood memories best forgotten. With my medical condition there’s always a chance I really could be peeing myself, so it was a relief when it was finished to find I wouldn’t need a change of clothes. Unlike so many men who have had their prostates removed I’ve been extremely lucky never to have suffered from incontinence and long may it continue.

As well as the kidney function test and the contrast dye another difference this time, a major difference for me, was that I didn’t need to follow a special diet before the planning session and neither will I have to during the radiotherapy itself. I asked why and was told it was because the radiation this time is mostly being aimed at a slightly different area of my body with only some overlap and, although I’m still likely to have bowel and waterworks problems while I’m having treatment, this time it’ll be a case of adjusting my diet as I go along. Maybe this summer will not be so devoid of all those fabulous fresh summer fruits and salads like last year’s was. I really missed those summer treats. As things don’t always go according to plan I’m going to pig out on strawberries for the next two weeks to make sure I don’t miss out again.

The other difference from last year was being told how many sessions of radiation I’d be having. I thought it’d be 32 sessions every day Monday to Friday like last time, or maybe even less. Not so. The plan this time is for 37. It’s only another week’s worth so I daresay I’ll get through it. I’ve looked at the calendar and, allowing for 3 weeks to get over the worst of the side effects, I might yet get a last week in Spain before the weather turns. That’s my aim, anyway, and it’s good to have something nice to aim for.

I didn’t need more tattoos done this time, either. I was almost disappointed that last year’s marks were still clear enough to be used again. My three little dots are the only tattoos I’ve ever had (or wanted) but three more would have trounced the competition at the support group.

The things that didn’t change were the water drinking, kissing goodbye to my dignity and the really good staff attitude. Water – I have to be well hydrated and have a full bladder for both the planning and the treatment, which means constant peeing, too. Sorry to keep on mentioning my waterworks, but it goes with the territory. Dignity – (wot dignity!?). Just like last year’s planning session I had to bare almost everything. It was almost like being back on the beach in Spain, except that there I went the whole hog. All that was needed to complete the scene was a beach seller passing through shouting “Agua, Cerveza“. Staff attitude – at the risk of sounding creepy the people who work in the place are so friendly, helpful and nice. I remembered two by name from before and asked after them. Coincidentally I bumped into one 10 minutes later and she remembered me, too. The other I asked about, though, had left to become a lecturer at a University. 

We got away about four hours after we arrived. The actual planning session only takes about 10 minutes, but the blood test and waiting for the result took up some time as did the pre-planning question and answer session and then the wait for my bladder to refill before the scan. The only thing that marred the day was the traffic in Reading when we started making our way home. (Reading, get your act together, please)

I’ve been asked how I feel about having more radiotherapy and everything that’s happening. Not sure, really. On the one hand I feel very lucky. Not to have cancer, of course, but lucky that I’m getting more treatment and something is still being done to try to cure me or, if not cure me, give me more time. I remember my mum saying to me when I was a little kid “life is sweet”. I never truly understood what she meant until I got ill. On the other hand, physically I’m mostly OK but I’m tired and have quite a few aches and pains, which I’d probably have had anyway at the age of 60 even without cancer. Mentally I have started to feel pretty emotional and down at times. My male pride (it’s still there somewhere) makes me blame the hormone pills I’m on for that but I suppose everything having been up in the air for the last 3 years must have taken its toll. Who wouldn’t be emotional after everything that’s happened? I haven’t wrung anyone’s neck yet but my fuse is becoming ever shorter. Again I blame the hormone pills but maybe it’s stress. I wonder if this latest treatment will work and hope that it will, but who really knows? My view on it is that I’ll try anything, bar the crackpot stuff you read on the Internet. One thing I know for sure is that I’d rather be all up in the air for the next 20 or 30 years than six foot under the ground. 


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