Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Alternative radiotherapy

Well, according to the calendar my radiotherapy started yesterday.

I decided I would get more effective treatment at Chinaman's Beach, though.

The radiation may have been less targeted, mind you. But the scenery was a lot prettier.

Really, this was the only possible answer to my frustration at the run-around I've been given by the radiotherapy department. A very late call on Friday afternoon informed me that my "treatment had been delayed until further notice".

Oh, really?

Maybe when all this is over I'll start a training school for medical receptionists. Some of the skills taught might include empathy and information sharing. Because seriously, I think this girl had me down as just one more phone call she had to make before she hit the pub. She was ready to hang up, but I wouldn't let her.

So instead of a fast track to the bar, she got a diatribe about not assuming that it was as easy as one phone call. I would now have to contact all the people who'd agreed to be on the roster to drive me an hour each way to treatment every day for six weeks, and leave them hanging up in the air too. Because of course, nobody else would have any other plans, would they? They're all just hanging on my every word, waiting to drop everything to be of assistance.


And, while we're at it, every moment of a cancer patient's treatment is carefully marked on the calendar. We hang on to the thought that one day, this hell will be over, and our only real control is marking off those days. Every time you put the dates back, we suffer. We wonder if there's some medical complication that nobody's thought to tell us about. We stress that the Freeloader is taking this opportunity to multiply a little more. We mourn the lost week that we spend in purgatory while we wait, yet again, to move forward.

And that's not even the half of it, when you've got a partner who's been through all this before and who's been dreading the radiotherapy from the start and trying to dissuade me from having it at all. His experience 14 years ago with his previous lady was just horrific. Those were the days of blast furnace radiotherapy, and given that she had an advanced and terminal tumour that had pretty much exploded out of her chest, the area that was zapped was huge. After two sessions of being burned to a crisp, she snapped, refused to take it any more and went home with him to die.

Of course, it's not like that any more- it's much more targeted- and I am not already dying. The areas to be radiated are much smaller- tiny by comparison. But I still have a partner who is traumatised and anticipating carnage no matter how much I try to reassure him, and changing the dates when he's braced himself for this to start on Tuesday- well, that's really fucked.

And now I have to deal with that as well as my own feelings. Thanks a lot.

The flibbertygibbet on the other end of the phone seemed slightly put out by all this unsolicited and uncomfortable information. I could almost see her checking her watch as she "Oh"ed and "Really?"ed on the other end of the line. Dammit, she probably still had five calls to make before she could get out the door.

She definitely needed a scholarship to Candy's College of Communication and Compassion (yesterday would be good.)

Reluctantly, she shared that no, it wasn't a medical complication; it was "the plan" which hadn't been finalised yet holding things up. It had many checks that had to take place before it could be approved, and for some reason mine had stalled at one of the checkpoints. She agreed to call me with a definite start date first thing on Monday morning.

She didn't, of course.


By 11.30 on Monday I was in a less than agreeable mood. I rang and spoke to a much more skilled receptionist, who agreed that this wasn't good enough. She explained that there were no less than seven hoops the treatment plan had to jump through before being approved, because they needed to get my treatment exactly right.

Well, yes; fair enough. Of course they need to be sure, and careful. Um, how many weeks does that take the experts? Hmm?

And she promised to talk to the radiotherapists and the doctors and ring me back with a definite start date by Monday afternoon.

She didn't, of course.


Fortunately I had an appointment with Dr Rosie on Monday afternoon too, and so I let off some steam to her while she updated my Centrelink medical certificate (a little bit of loop theory scheduled every three months, because hello, Centrelink does not seem to have the slightest understanding that breast cancer eats almost a year of your life even if everything goes well).

"They probably forgot about the school holidays," she offered with her usual serene smile. "Someone who needs to sign off on the plan is probably away."

And that, my friends, is the best and only explanation I've been offered by anyone. Given that I first saw Professor Power Ranger months and months ago, and that I had my tattoos weeks and weeks ago, and that they keep reassuring me that it's not a medical complication holding things up, it's also about the only explanation that makes sense.


So when Tuesday dawned and we were still none the wiser, we jumped in the car and got our rays the natural way. I soothed the Bear's fractured feelings a little more by insisting on a healthy supply of beer and prawns, which worked remarkably well as we sat on a rock watching the sea do its thing.

The view from our rock. Looks like we're up high, but we're not...
I became fascinated by the patterns around me. I completely forgot why we were there, and where I thought I was going to be today.

(I can't imagine where the Bundjalung people got their inspiration for dot painting, can you?)

I stood at the edge of the water for ages, hypnotised by the way the sand defied gravity and rolled upwards for a moment as the waves coming in met the waves rushing out. You had to wait for exactly the right pairing of waves to see it. After a while the Bear came and stood there with me, waiting to see what I was staring at for so long.

"There." I pointed suddenly, as for a few seconds the sand rose in a little rolling hump along the whole length of the wave.

He nodded and smiled. Took my hand.

He's a sailor, after all. The sea always clears his head of bad memories.


So as far as my treatment goes, I have nothing to report. NOTHING. Not even a start date.

There was a suggestion from one of the receptionists that maybe I'd be starting next Monday or Tuesday, but given the reliability of information thus far, what do you reckon about believing that?

Yeah, that's what I thought, too.

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