After three rounds of Chemotherapy to reduce the size of my tumour I was eager to get Radiotherapy underway. I've now finished my first week of treatment at Northampton General Hospital. It's been a tiring week and by the time you read this, I'll be back at NGH for the start of week two ...
Monday is probably the hardest day of the treatment plan. I have a dose of Chemotherapy to assist the Radiotherapy treatment but am incredibly pleased that it's only a milder infusion of Cisplatin rather than the full-on toxic cocktail I had previously.
Still, it takes time to do as they need to spend a good few hours filling me full of Magnesium and Potassium and running blood tests before I head off to the Radiotherapy suite.
Tuesdays are about meetings with my MacMillan nurse and the Dieticians and then Wednesday, Thursday and Fridays are simply treatment on their own. The Radiotherapy team will give you appointments that suit you wherever possible and are always open to moving things around as and when you need.
"This part of the treatment isn't actually that taxing!"
Once called in, they put me on the bed, fit my mesh mask so that I can't move my head around, use lasers and x-rays to ensure I'm in the exact right place and then fire off the photon beams at my tumour so it disrupts the cell DNA and damages them so much they die off.
The whole time, I get to lie there and think about new programming ideas for sblogit.com or, as has happened a couple of times, fall asleep. Yeah ... that's a really taxing form of treatment. It's probably my favourite part.
However, don't think that Radiotherapy is in any way easy! Yes, the actual being in the machine is easy but having to do it every single working day for weeks and weeks is incredibly tiring in itself. Plus, a machine could be being serviced or another one has broken down so there's a lot of waiting around and the Radiotherapy team are often working until 8 pm - and sometimes even on Saturdays - just to get everyone in for their treatment.
The other thing about Radiotherapy is that the effects are cumulative and build up over time. It has to be said that using high energy photons isn't a precise art. The beams hit healthy tissue as well and, over time, you get inflammation and damage that can give you some interesting symptoms.
In my case, as my tumour is in my nasal space, I could end up not being able to swallow as my throat swells up and have a complete lack of saliva. Although these will return to normal, they can both be incredibly painful effects and can last for weeks after the Radiotherapy treatment ends.
"5 down, 25 more to go!"
I'm not feeling any symptoms at the moment, except for being a little tired although having the weekend off has helped. I suppose the Cisplatin shook me a little last week and I felt unwell for a couple of days, but nowhere near the horrors of the three full-blown Chemo cycles I've had previously.
I am pre-emptively taking Ibuprofen to stave off some of the swelling as Radiotherapy goes on and my Oncology team have promised me stronger pain relief if, or when, I need it. But for now, I'm breezing it and, as far as I'm concerned, will end this week with few or no symptoms again.