Every weekday I sit in a large waiting area, anticipating when the plastic alarm in my hand will sound. Even though I’m expecting it, the loud buzz and vibration always startles me. I walk to reception, hand back the buzzer then follow the radiographer down the hall to an area called LA10. I have no idea what LA10 stands for or means but I can tell you it’s nothing exotic or exciting. There I’m asked the same questions day after day “please confirm your address and date of birth?” I answer while I remove my shoes and jeans then I lie down on a hard plastic bench with a head rest, knee support and ankle supports. I then have to lower my underwear to my knees. For the next five minutes I’m measured from every angle, drawn on, pushed up and down, side to side until the green laser beams align perfectly with all three of my hospital grade tattoos. Once both radiographers are satisfied with my position “back soon Rebecca” they say as they leave the room. The radiation warning sign lights up red and the machine starts to circle my pelvis. It stops at one of its four locations and then with a loud clunk followed by an unnerving buzz the radiation is shot into my body. This is repeated until all four locations have been treated.
As I lie there all sorts of crazy day dreams run through my head. Some days Ive been captured by aliens and am currently being held as one of their test subjects. Other days I’m dr David banner experimenting with radiation when suddenly something goes wrong and I’m zapped with gamma radiation overload and have turned into a giant green muscle man with super natural strength. My most recent day dream however included zombies. Ex humans that had been poisoned by radiation in an experiment gone wrong and had now turned into the undead. Im armed with a massive machine gun, I quickly sneak round the corner and immediately open fire on some slow fumbling zombie feasting on the nurses. Just like a scene from resident evil. As amusing as these day dreams can sometimes be, they don’t take away from the fact that I am being exposed to radiation and as much as I know this radiation is my best chance of getting rid of the cancer, it also means I’m damaging good cells too. My ovaries are slowly but surely dying, my bladder and bowels are being damaged and all my energy and strength are being sucked out of me each weekday. I have now completed fifteen external radiation treatments only sixteen more to go, 3 of them being the dreaded internal procedure, but that’s for another battle!
The imagination is a fabulous thing, that’s why I love reading. The author gives you a brief description of a character but you have full creative power to create a picture of exactly how they look. Not only with characters but with places described in books too. We have the power to create a space in our imaginations where anything can happen , where we feel safe, where we have adventures, where we fall in love with Prince Charming. I’ve created my own little world that’s helped me get through these last few weeks. The cancer centre is the main location, only obviously it’s not the cancer centre, in my world it’s a beautiful parallel universe where the nurses are angel like figures who effortlessly glide around making sure everyone is ok and looked after. The radiation machine is a life prolonging state of the art piece of technology that only a lucky few get to benefit from. On Tuesdays in the chemo ward that’s the highlight of the week, the residents of my parallel universe get pumped full of an amazing liquid that promotes peace and happiness and allows us to rest, relax and recuperate until the end of the week. Everyone in my universe is kind, caring and compassionate, everyone knows one another and no one is sick. We are all here for the same reason, that’s true in the real world as well my make believe one. I’m sure that one day soon my little bubble will get popped and the cold reality will hit me that it is in fact the cancer centre, people sometimes can’t be saved by the life prolonging piece of technology and that it is in fact poison being pumped round my body once a week.
Until then, I’m holding on to my daydreams they are much better than reality.