The picture shows the writer about to be posted into the doughnut of doom for his daily dose of Tomotherapy at St Thom’s in London.
I thought a blog describing the process I’m go through every day during my radiotherapy treatment might be of interest to three different audiences:
- Those who are about to undergo it and don’t know what to expect
- Me, for when I’ve forgotten all about it six months down the track
- The idly curious and medical procedure fanatics
I attend the hospital about an hour ahead of my appointment and pop my list of appointments into a plastic holder just outside the treatment room where they are retrieved by one of the team. With my bowels flushed either naturally or chemically, I sit waiting until a radiographer tells me to ‘start drinking’.
Hopping nimbly to the water fountain I fill up a jug with the requisite 350ml and drink thirstily. There is now a gap of about 45 minutes while the water makes its inexorable journey to my bladder swelling the prostate into a target that can’t be missed.
Times up and I’m told to get changed into the fetching gown you can see in the picture. I sit outside the room where the RT machine lurks making small talk with the team until the previous patient is done and dusted.
The change-over is generally quick and I go in. The bed is adjusted to my height and I lie down on a small blue mat which they use to hoick me into position. Every day, at this point I’m asked for my date of birth and the first line of my address. I’m considering having this tattooed on my chest.
With Jim positioned correctly, a button is hit and I glide into the machine’s embrace. First, they scan my prostate to check for empty bowels and full bladder. There is a thunk of compressed air, nothing to do with me, and the scanning process gets under way. Once complete the table slides out and I wait while (I assume) they check they are happy for the treatment to go ahead. If all is well I slide back into the doughnut, there is a rattling sound and their ray guns let loose on my unsuspecting prostate. THIS DOES NOT HURT.
During treatment, there is a constant high frequency rushing sound combined with a rattle that I’ve described before as a wheelie suitcase being dragged across cobbles. I like to imagine it’s me going on holiday.
Treatment complete, the noise stops, and I glide out and jump off the table. Taken together, the scan and treatment take just over ten minutes.
I’m given back my appointments sheet, occasionally times change, after that I wave goodbye to my trusty band of radio-ladies (all female team today) and make my way to the Boris Bike stand and cycle away, ready for another day.
Tomorrow I have a Treatment Review which will also see Mrs Preen in attendance. This is not to see whether the treatment is working but rather to discuss any side-effects I might be facing. None so far, so it might be a short conversation.