Stories of Cancer
Giving Voice to Real Experiences

Courage?

Courage
I found courage on the floor today
Where it must have fallen from my pocket
Unnoticed, while I was dressing

Just a small polished stone,
Though some say it has magic properties
A crystal with healing powers

Maybe it can help protect me today?

I pick it up and put it back in my pocket to take it to Christie’s with me for the radiotherapy planning meeting. I’ve been procrastinating, putting off starting the treatment, wanting more time to get over the chemo, but it can’t be put off any longer. So, a month after finishing chemo, here I am on my way to the hospital again. Some say that radiotherapy will be a doddle after chemo but I’m not so sure. Images of radioactivity are in my head: weapons, nuclear power stations, and mushroom clouds. Some of this energy is going to be zapped into my body.

Last night I dreamt I was on a very long walk through France with Liz:

I was worried that I may not have the strength for it and wonder why we haven’t done the Camino De Santiago pilgrimage instead as if that would be easier! Then I realise that on this walk there is a back up vehicle, to support you and carry your bags, and I realise that if I have Terry in the back up vehicle I can probably do it.

I wake up feeling relieved, remembering I’m not alone, though it’s me alone that’s going to be treated, there are plenty of people in my support car.

The meeting is with Dr Young. I’m glad it’s him, a familiar face – I don’t have to get used to another doctor. He’s been through chemo with me and I have confidence in him.

Dr Young explains that the first thing they need to do is a scan which will show them where the radiotherapy waves need to target, and then they will mark me up with small tattoos. I’m scared, but trying to be a good patient, wanting to be brave and act as if I have radiotherapy every day and know it’s no big deal. I want to know if the scan will show whether cancer is still there, but he says this is a different sort of scan, to determine exactly where the radiotherapy waves will be targetted. They hope to be able to avoid ribs and lungs, and he says “At least the breast is outside the trunk of the body”. Later I realise what he means by this, when friends with cancers in ovaries and womb suffer bowel problems or back pain during and after radiotherapy. At the time, though, I think “But my breast is still a part of me.” A deeper, quieter voice is there, too, crying about how scary this is.

Soon, I’m lying on a metal bed on my own in a big metal room surrounded by machines moving first one way and then the other, looking at my breast from every direction, whirring and clicking, shining green laser lights, making lattice lines on my chest. Tears are rolling down my face, again! When Dr Young comes out from behind the screen and tells me we’re done I completely break down, sobbing and spluttering. He’s concerned, poor man, thrown by the upset and asks if I want to see the nurse. I don’t know what he means, what nurse? Why would a nurse make me feel better? All I want is to get out of here, get dressed and have a hug from Terry. I need a tissue, apparently not standard issue in radiotherapy rooms. I wonder if anyone else cries.

Terry sees me emerging from the room with tears rolling down my face. He thinks I’ve had bad news. This is so hard on him too.