Starting today

Radiotherapy starts for me today. The prevailing sense is curiosity. I wonder what it will feel like and wonder how I’ll manage it.

I’m not particularly claustrophobic, but that’s one thing the doctors warned of. I don’t expect it to be a problem, but I can understand why it might be. You’re fixed in place, unable to move. This is important obviously, as the radiation has to be precisely directed. I’ll be wearing a strange mask, moulded close to my face and shoulders. It’s largely open, but it is intrusive. On top of that, I’ll be fitted with a mouthguard, and potentially, nose plugs. Then I have to lie still while I am conveyed into a tube, where I’ll be treated for about 15 mins.

I got a call from the oncologist a couple of days ago. As the cancer reached near to my eye, they’ll be sending radiation quite close to the optic nerve. There was a small chance, she said, of this leading to a deterioration in vision of up to 5% over a period. She hastened to add that no one she had yet treated had experienced this. I agreed, of course – what else am I going to do?

I’m keen to get started, even though I don’t think I’m physically up to it yet. It seems that progress has stalled over the last fortnight. I don’t feel any better, and my mobility has not come on as I expected. In ways, I’m worse. The pain is considerably more than before, and I’m back on painkillers 24/7. There are two types of pain – the aches and pain related to the swelling, which extends to my eye and ear and back of my head, and what I call dental pain, resulting from my mouth being all stitched up. If a nurse asked me now where my pain is at, I’d tell them 6 or 7.

Pain is a part of the healing process, so I’m not too concerned about it aside from the physical distress. I don’t look forward to having extra pain on top of it, though.

There’s clearly still a lot happening in my body. A couple of nights, I’ve woken drenched in sweat. One morning I had blood trickle from my right nostril. I’m required to clear out my nose a few times a day, and lately, there’s been trickles of blood after. I’m expelling clots of blood and the occasional thread – a dissolving stitch. I presume once more that this is a part of the cleaning out process and normal.

I’ve taken to resting more, which isn’t hard. The last few days, I haven’t got out of bed until 11. I’ve had a bath then, before dressing for the day. I’m conscious of how many calories I’ve been burning up – up to 5000 on the back of 2000 paces (about 5 times greater than my healthy rate) – and so I’m moving less and eating even more. I’d go to sleep before with a bit of a belly and wake to it being as flat as a pancake. That’s improved in recent days, and I have to build that store further in anticipation of the hard times ahead.

I guess this is all a part of getting well again, but I wish I knew more. Ideally, I’d prefer to be in a better state before commencing on a program of radiation and chemo. But I’m also keen to get this started and hopefully eradicate the remnants of cancer in my body. The best chance comes with an early start (I wonder if some of the pain I feel might not be cancer-related). In any case, the sooner I start, the sooner I finish.

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