After gowning up for today’s session, I was given a reusable bag to keep the gown in for the duration of the treatment. This gesture made me ridiculously despondent. Then during set up on the gurney the in-the-way right foob had adjusted its shape again and needed to be secured out of the way with masking tape. I thought, really? Is this going to work? The technicians leave, the DO NOT ENTER sign clicks on. Their spy camera moves a fraction. I want to cry but can’t. Can’t because it’ll move my position. Can’t because I’m being observed, by the technicians out of the room and the machine inside it. My mind says “Let’s try some visualisation. Imagine a beach” and then my mind says “Are you fucking insane?” I’m Dakota Fanning in War of the Worlds. Still. Scared. Watched by a machine. There’s a dreadful pause before the long ERRRRP buzz sounds as the invisible beam finds its target. The tears come now anyway and spill, as predicted, into my ears. My chest wants to heave as I weep, but I have to keep still, so I do a bizarre pant, last used during labour to get me through the next three minutes. I endure the pause-ERRRRP three more times. Then it’s lights on, “You’re free to go!” and I storm outta there like a bullet from a gun.

In the change room, I reach for my magic cream to find I’ve forgotten it. I long exhale to the nurse’s desk. She is a proper nurse: plump, crisply uniformed – like Hattie Jacques only warm. I manage “I’ve forgotten my cream” before my face crumples. She takes my hand, leads me to a room and embraces me as I weep and snot into her shoulder.  On the way to the room I think once again about the amount of tragedy these uninspiring pastel walls have contained. “Let me look at you.” says Hattie, and I lift up my top. “You’re going to be fine.” she says, giving me a speck of light to stay with. She passes me a cream “Use this.” she instructs and I do.

Head down, I go back to the car where I do some good old-fashioned steering wheel thumping accompanied by primal screaming. Then I shake my head like a wet dog, dry my face, neck some water and drive off.

On the way home I talk to Faye about the pain because, did I mention, it hurts? Since diagnosis, physical pain has been well within the manageable realm. And I’m sure this will be too but given this is just the beginning, (today was treatment 2 out of 25) I’m nervous about what’s to come. Currently, it feels like moderate sunburn and was painful enough for me to take Panadol.

The damage radiotherapy does is often described as burning, and remedies such as aloe vera are touted. However, radiation wounds are not really burns, and they are not rated by degree. Here’s how one Radiation Oncologist describes it:

Radiation wounds are not “damaged” skin, per se, as much as they are “missing” skin…radiation causes skin to fail to reproduce properly, and thus as you “use up” your normal skin, like we all do all day, there are no new layers of skin coming up from the bottom. So eventually the area can ulcerate. This might look like a thermal burn, but it has very little in common with a thermal burn, and the treatments for thermal burns will not help much.

*shudder* Isn’t that gross? It’s enough to send me scurrying back into the HBOT chamber, where I’ll go for daily sessions for the rest of this week. Anything to help replace the missing, soon-to-become ulcerated skin. That it may also help to ease the pain is no small thing, although in the meantime, and on Faye’s excellent counsel, I’ll be maxing out on Panadol for good measure.

HBOT is the same complementary therapy I was originally going to do daily with the radiotherapy, then someone online called Boris suggested waiting til the end of radiotherapy to do it, but now it’s back to plan A.

Keep up, people.

Back home, I manage to embrace the kids without wincing.

“How was it, Ted?”

“I need to pee. I’ll tell you after.”

Next thing, I’m laughing and laughing like the crazy lady I am.

“What is it Ted?”

And it all makes sense.


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