The Repeat Journeys

Week two of this seven-week routine of daily radiotherapy. Between my home and the centre there’s just a little green space, then multiple villages, now bloated to become a connurbation. Brighton and Hove have separate railway stations, but now are one recently-appointed city. This week the schools are empty, children and teachers enjoying a break after the Spring Bank Holiday, which used to be the gently wandering Whitsun break, until the rigours of modernisation nailed it to the last-Monday-in-May slot. That means traffic is light and I get to the centre early. Given the chance the crew irradiate me early and send me off into the early summer morning with a bit more time for the work awaiting me at the office. The X-ray machine is massive. I lie on a hard table, head and feet on half-stocks to keep them steady. Using gentle green lasers that delineate the cross-point around which this massive device rotates, the team adjust, poke, stroke and ensure my three tatoos line up with the laser lines. Then a series of numbers relating to where the table is, I guess. They work to a tolerance of 5mm. For a brain tumour it would be 1mm. “Everything’s OK!” Out they go, closing a wooden gate across the entrance corridor. Then a short series of whistling alarms, a brief tense silence, and a medium-strength buzz as the X-rays flow out of the machine’s head and into my body. Twelve seconds, as measured by my pulse; a second twelve into the right side of the pelvis. The machine rotates until the head is over my stomach. Twelve more into my front. More rotation. Then a couple of twelves into my left side. Silence. Then one of the team returns, switches on the lights and moves the hard, healing table into open space, so I can get up, dress myself and get out. No sensation at all, but clenching muscles as the buzzes begin. No side effects, yet. Just a daily prayer that this machine will do its job, be owned by God and used to heal. Five more weeks to go.

3 June, 2005