I have to admit it’s a tad ironic…

I’ve talked to my oncologist – the excellent Dr Stancliffe – about the increasing pain and irritation I’m getting from my main tumour.

From Boris the Bloated Bastard.

And she’s suggested palliative radiotherapy. An attempt to shrink the tumour. Reduce the pain and irritation.

So far, so good.

The snag? They need to treat me at Addenbrookes. An hour’s drive away. Each way. And add in about an hour’s waiting time.

During all of which time I’m sitting on my bum. Which is precisely what triggers my most painful reactions. And I’m talking pain that can reach eight or nine on a scale of ten.

As I said, ironic.

Add in the fact that they’re having software problems with two of the machines, leading to delays of up to 40 minutes, and the ouch factor becomes even more significant.

That said, here’s a shoutout to the radiotherapy team at Addenbrookes. They’ve shown unfailing good humour in the face of these hugely frustrating issues, they’ve treated me with exceptional care and consideration and – as so often with NHS staff – we’ve frequently had a good laugh together. I wish I didn’t have to sit around so long before my treatment, but in fairness so do they!

So what’s it like?

Well, it begins with water. Rather a lot of it. The team like patients to have a (fairly) full bladder as it helps them get a better view of the different bits and pieces in (in my case) the groinal area. 

Once that lot has had time to add its pressure to what my tumour’s already doing to me, I do eventually get called in for the actual treatment. Where it’s shoes and trousers off, and up on to the flatbed – while showing off my excellent 15th-century braies. (I usually untie the cord myself given that my nurses are unlikely ever to have seen a pair of braies before.) Once my inked target mark is visible I’m in for a bit of gentle personhandling while they line me up with careful precision to target their death ray on Boris the Bloated Bastard tumour. (A fate he entirely and richly deserves.)

At this point the nurses make a swift exit and I am gently but inescapably hauled into the bowels of The Machine…

As I understand it (though I’m not sure I do) this first pass is to check that I am correctly positioned for the treatment – using the scanning part of the equipment. Once that’s done I’m hauled out again while they fire up the death ray…

The sound it makes is weirdly similar to that of a freight train going over jointed track. (It’s certainly noisy, anyway.) As I’m hauled back in I can’t help thinking of a wagon circle in a Western – except these wagons are rumbling their way around a circular track. For 20 minutes…

In due course The Machine spits me out and I am gently returned to the vertical by my nurses. With just enough time to explain why 15th-century knickers are the perfect underwear for a man with a Hydrocele the size of a Jaffa grapefruit. Then it’s thank you, goodbye, and a rapid trip to the loo. (For this relief much thanks.)

I have five days of this (and it could have been more!) and we’re just at the latter end of day three. Today was an early start, allowing us to secure a disabled space right by the entrance to Outpatients – and use my shiny new blue badge for the first time. (Thank you Macmillan Cancer Care for an amazingly fast turnaround.) I now take morphine just before we leave and just after we get back, which at least controls the worst of the pain to some extent. (Time to take some more…)

Once done, I’m told things will get worse, after a week or two, before they (hopefully) get better.

So prayers, positive thoughts and good wishes welcome. This had bloody well better be worth it… 🙂