Monday 13 September 2021

Radiotherapy Day 15

And it's all over! The happiness is crazy and the thankfulness is huge.
Went down with Husband, picking up Daughter on the way.
Beautiful, beautiful morning. Blue sea, light dancing off the water.
Arrived twenty minutes early.
Handed over a box of Celebrations to my chums John and David in reception.
They were delighted, and twinkled at me in their gorgeous way.
Thank you! they said. And we exchanged lots of silliness, before Daughter and I went round the corner to B1. For the last time!
Husband parked the car, and came and joined us.
B1 machine is on time today. Joy.
I'm called in.
The nurses are cheerful, kind and lovely as ever.
It's your last one! they say.
I know! I laugh. Can't believe it.
Up I hop on the bed.
Vicky looks at my boob. I'm so used to this now I don't even notice.
See that prickly heat? she says. Take piriton. Especially before bed. It will make it itch less.
Great idea! I say. And make a mental note to do just that.
There's a student nurse there today. She smiles down at me.
Sorry, she says, I'm learning.
I tell her I'm so glad she's there. They pull me around and up and down. There's a lot of teaching going on, but it's so professionally done, I hardly notice.
Finally they are done.
I have an itch on my forehead. It's ferocious! One of the nurses comes near me again, and I ask her to scratch it for me. Oh, the relief!
And I'm left alone for the last time.
This time I am approaching the end of a marathon. I'm being lifted by hundreds of people, and we slowly surge towards the finishing line.
These are all the people who have been praying for you, says Father God. They wanted to carry you over the finishing line!
I lie there, smiling. Even if there is another persistent itch on my forehead that I can't wait to scratch again.
The nurses come back in.
You're all done! they say. And haul me up for the last time.
Do up my poppers on my robe.
And I get changed, leaving the robe hanging up in the cubicle, all ready for someone else. God BLESS that person.
And hand over another box of Celebrations to the nurses, along with a card and a heartfelt message of gratitude in it, for them all.
And we leave, in the sunshine, waving to John and David on our way out.
And we go to Marmalade, probably the best cafe in the world, which just so happens to be down the road. And I have a latte and a salmon and avocado bagel, Daughter has a boiled egg with soldiers, and Husband has a BLT.
So happy. Thank you, God!

Radiotherapy Day 14

Today we were rung up as we were about to have lunch (outside! in the sun!) to say that there was such a queue in the radiotherapy waiting room that they were asking people to come later.
Righto, said Husband.
Will they ring Terry? I asked. We are giving Terry, our lovely friend and neighbour, a lift. She's doing her radiotherapy straight after I do mine.
Yes, said Husband.
Terry turned up at 2.30 for her lift to radiotherapy. It turned out that all her phone lines are down as BT are doing exciting things with broadband.
Oh, dear, we all said. And I rang the radiotherapy reception team who said there was an hour delay. Double that and put bells on it, I thought.
So Husband sportingly offered to take Terry down now.
I stay at home and decide to drive myself down for my 6pm appointment.
Husband and Terry ring at 5.30 to say I should get there for 6-6.15. They are leaving to go in the opposite direction.
Which I do. On the button.
I'm delighted to see that I don't need a parking permit after 6. Hooray!
And I wander down the corridor, tell the receptionist I'm here.
Thank you, darling, she says.
And I wait in B1 for the penultimate time.
No sooner have I got my lap top up and fired up the NHS wifi than I'm called in.
I'm so sorry you've had such a long wait, says the nurse, looking worriedly at me.
Don't worry, I say cheerfully. I only just got here!
Oh, she says with a relieved smile. That's good!
And I change. Only one more to go.
As I lie on the bed today I have a picture of Father God, waiting at the end of a running track. There are 9 lines down the field, and I am in Row 5. I run towards him, racing down the track. He is waiting at the end, arms outstretched, his face wreathed in a smile.
Then, he walks down the track towards me.
What?! I'm in a race! He can't do that!
But he does. He stops the race. Everyone is frozen in time. Except him and me.
What have you done? I ask.
Stopped the world, he smiles. And we sit by the side of the track.
And I realise he's stopped the entire universe as well. Everything, just for me!
We're back, say the nurses.
And I reluctantly get up. Smiling.
The journey home is easy and traffic free.
And on my return back, I pick branches of twisted willow for our Easter tree.
And hang my eggs and chicks on it. Place it next to a bowl of yellow tulips bought by my mother.
Thank you, Father God. Thank you.

Radiotherapy Day 13

Today Daughter took me down. She is on her Easter break from Uni. We zoomed down in Middle Son's car, because Daughter and Middle Son have swapped cars for the week. Daughter is now driving ancient Yaris, inherited from my mother.
We fly into Brighton, the seafront calm, mist still hovering.
The men in reception are cheery as ever.
You want ANOTHER parking permit? they twinkle. We've run out.
No! I say, horrified.
Only joking, they laugh. And write out yet another one for me.
I introduce them to Daughter. We are all smiles. I love this place!
We go to the waiting room. Sit opposite the knitting today. Someone is knitting.
You're knitting! I say, impressed.
The woman pauses and smiles.
I've just learned how to knit sitting here, she says. My mum has taught me. See! Good things have come out of this!
We chortle together. I show her the Very Small Square that I knitted on Monday. Someone has carried it on. It now resembles a Very Small Scarf for a Very Small Rodent. Purple.
The woman giggles.
We wondered what that was all about, she says.
Out comes a man, looking very cheery. He's with his grandson. The woman offers to take him home when her mum comes out. He refuses very politely, and says that the bus is fine. And he's off, in a flurry of goodbyes and smiles.
Do you know him? I ask.
No! she says. It was just that he was so breathless when he arrived. He's got lung cancer.
We make sympathetic noises. We do that a lot here.
What about your mum? I ask.
The woman tells me about her mum. It seems that she has the same as me, with 3 weeks of RT. Finishing tomorrow!
Hooray, we say.
When I go in, I ask Daughter to time me. I could swear it takes about 8 minutes.
I change and wait, sitting in the little cubicle. Down the corridor comes the woman's mum. She looks lovely.
Hello, I say. I've been chatting with your daughter. She's knitting!
Oh, says the lady. She's wonderful.
She is, I say. And we smile.
I'm called in, and laugh as another nurse leaps out to call me in as well.
Wow, you're like a gazelle, I say. She is delighted to be called a gazelle, and does some 'leaping like a gazelle' about the room. We laugh and I step up onto the bed.
This time as they leave the room, I feel Jesus hovering above me. He is on his cross, facing me, inches from my face.  Once again, he takes the rays for me. The cross is exactly in the place where the rays are going. How generous and good he is. How amazing that he continues to take away my pain and sickness. How I love him.
We're back again! says the nurse. And helps me with my robe. I hop off the bed, and call goodbye as I leave.
That took 14 minutes, says Daughter.
14?! I say. It seemed like 5!
And we head off home, getting some petrol from Tesco, and chatting about Made in Chelsea.
I simply love my daughter.
And my life.

Radiotherapy Day 12

We were delayed in the waiting room today. My friend Caz took me down.
40 minutes delay, it said, when we got there.
And then a few minutes later, 50 minutes delay.
Oh, well, said Caz. All the more time to do some knitting!
We looked over at the knitting. And decided to chat instead. Much easier.
Out came an old man. He is wearing joggers and an ancient hospital robe.
They needed to recalibrate the machine, he says. He sounds agitated.
I'm sorry, he says to us.
Don't worry at all! we beam at him. We're having a lovely chat!
He shuffles out of the room.
Machine, be recalibrated, says Caz. In Jesus' name.
Amen, I say. And we laugh together, confident in our prayer.
The waiting is filled with laughter and giggles, as Caz tells me about Israel, trips up North, and stories of her life.
After an hour I am seen.
We are SO SORRY, say the nurses.
Don't worry at ALL, I say. We've been having fun in the waiting room. Am I the last?
Yes, they say. It's been awful since 4.30. We always feel so sorry for you all.
And they busy themselves with measuring me up, and they leave the room, cheerily waving.
This time Father God wafts a beautifully light silk cloth, and it sinks slowly down onto my skin, covering me from top to toe, protecting me from harm. And I lie there while the rays hammer, quietly loving him.
The journey home is much faster, and we arrive back to see Husband through the kitchen window.
I thank Caz.
I'm going to pray for you, she says. And she does. And I feel such peace and joy fill me as she speaks words over me and through me.
We say goodbye and Caz leaves in her snazzy white mini.
I wave.
And go in for supper, a glass of wine and a bath. Bliss, or what.

Radiotherapy Day 11

We go down at 3.05. The traffic is awful along the sea front. Husband says over and over that we should have gone the other way. I say over and over that I like coming this way and that we have plenty of time.
Mum is with us. And Terry, my neighbour over the road, over the hedge, she's with us too. She has her 2nd radiotherapy today. I have my 11th. We are both carrying our hospital robes. Mine is burgundy. Really rather fetching. Hers is stripy purple and white. I can't help feeling a bit smug about mine, as it's clearly nicer than hers.
We arrive and manhandle Mum into the centre. Everyone thinks she's the patient, and we the daughters. There's a 20 minute delay today.
We sit ourselves in the corner next to the knitting. We say a jolly hello to the man opposite who twinkles back to us. We saw him yesterday. His dad is having radiotherapy. Last day on Monday!
In the other corner is Ann. From yesterday. The lady who couldn't breathe properly. I had met her this morning in Truffles as I bought 4 cream buns for tea. We had had a very jolly chat about radiotherapy and our side effects (none) and how tired we were (not at all). And there she was, smiling and happy, about to go in for her 4th go.
They call her in. She goes. We all 'thumbs up' her and smile as she walks through.
I eye the knitting next to me. Wonder how to cast on.
Get my phone out and look up 'casting on'. Find a YouTube video of 'How to cast on. Very slowly'.
So I watch that, and get the idea. Pick up 2 knitting needles size 3 and a quarter. Whatever that is.
And cast on.
10 stitches.
Decide to make extremely small square. Purple. I enjoy the next few minutes, just knitting and chatting, my small purple square taking shape. Terry is called in. We continue to chat and knit and giggle. Mum is very impressed with my very small square. Husband raises his eyebrows as he reads Hello! magazine cover to cover. I don't think he's ever read it before.
I don't have time to cast off (need another video to show me how to) as I am called in.
Today I have the same picture. Jesus is lying above me, taking all the radiotherapy on my behalf. Just like he has taken everything from me on my behalf. How I love him.
All done, says the nurse. And kindly does up my robe.
We head home another way.
This is better, says Husband. Look, an open road.
Terry and I look at the hundreds of cars on the A27.
But we're moving. And we're home before you can say 'iced bun'.
We drop Terry off and arrive home. Put the kettle on. Get the hot cross buns out.
Mustn't forget to have the iced buns tomorrow.

Radiotherapy Day 10

Jackie picks me up today. Lovely sunny morning.
We drive down, sun dancing off the sea. Husband stays at home to walk the dog. Mum comes with me.
We arrive and Mum and I walk down the corridor, announcing to John at reception that I've arrived.
In we go to B1. And wait. There's a 20 minute delay today. We've never had that before.
Jackie comes and joins us, having parked the car.
We sit and chat.
Out comes a lady in an identical burgundy hospital gown to mine.
The man opposite us asks her about her treatment.
Do you have to go back in? he asks.
Yes, she says. I couldn't breathe properly.
Oh, dear, we say from our corner. What happened?
She tells us how she has to hold her breath for 20 seconds and how she couldn't manage it.
We make sympathetic noises.
The father of the man opposite us comes back in. He is ancient, with a beautiful smile.
Well done, we say.
And they leave.
The lady in the burgundy is called back in. My heart sinks. I thought I was next.
So we sit back, prepared to wait.
30 minutes wait, it says on the screen.
Oh well, we say. And chat about things and this and that.
The burgundy lady still hasn't come out.
I'm called in.
The machine does its thing.
I have a picture of Jesus lying just above me, with his chest to the machine. He is taking all the rays on my behalf. I am so grateful I want to weep! We lie there together. Just him and me.
All done, says the nurse.
We go home via the sea front. And Jackie comes in when we arrive back so that we can ring Vicki about our business. Mum sits in the sitting room reading her book while we finish our work.
The dog is walked.
Life goes on. And what a wonderful life it is.

Radiotherapy Day 9

Today Vicki took me again, but this time my mother came too! She has come to stay for a week, so that she can be here and see for herself how well I am coping.  Telephone calls every night simply don't achieve the same thing.
A grey mizzly day. Brighton cold and damp.
Arrived at the RT centre a quarter of an hour early and sit on the opposite side of the room, away from the knitting. There are two lots of people waiting today. One woman in a hospital wheel chair. She is in a lot of pain, and is offered more pain killers. Her back hurts when she lies down, so she's preparing for a painful RT. I think it must be her first.
I'm in and out as quick as ever.
The machine clicks and whirrs and I lie and stare at the ceiling, at the funny little green light above my head. Today Jesus and I are dancing again, Fred and Ginger style. And then I laugh as Jesus starts to play an organ, jazz type music, and I feel his joy as he plays the chords up and down the keys.
All done, Helen, says the nurse.
And I get up and say goodbye, see you tomorrow.
And we drive back home, where we wave goodbye to Vicki, and have a much deserved cup of tea in front of a roaring fire.

Radiotherapy Day 8

Terry took me today. My neighbour from the house I can see over the road, over the hedge.
Clean forgot that she was taking me, and Husband and I were careering out of the village when my mobile buzzed to say that Terry had arrived to take me down to RT.
Back we went, and raced into the drive. I leaped from one car to another, and off we went.
Terry had a very crafty route through Brighton, cutting out some very dull traffic lights.
Brilliant, I said. Quite a few times.
Showed her the ropes with the parking permit, and by the time I'd been in, on the table and back out again, she had barely been in the waiting room for 5 minutes.
Done already? she asked.
I was. Done already. Time goes swiftly in that room. Today Jesus gently kissed the word PEACE onto my skin.  On my wrist and on my forehead. Down my arm.
You need a reminder, he said. It's always there. Now you'll see it.
Oh, I will, Jesus. I'll make sure of that.
And we raced home again. The nifty route.
Well done, our Terry.

Radiotherapy Day 7

Husband driving me today. It's another early one, and we arrive about 8.45. I'm shown through at 8.47, precisely 7 minutes early. Result.
Today I have a picture of Jesus and me on the tightrope. This time Jesus tells me to ride the bike across the tightrope. Which I do. We're going faster and faster and Jesus is running ahead of me on the rope. 'Be careful of where you're going!' I yell. He shouts back at me, 'Stop worrying! I AM the way!'
And I stop worrying and revel in the joy of speed and height and Jesus all rolled into one.
The nurse comes back in.
All done, Helen, he says.
And we drive home via the fish shop in Shoreham Port, picking up some pollard and haddock for a fish pie for supper tonight.
Life is good.

Radiotherapy Day 6

Jackie took me today. She arrived at 7.30 and we talked the entire way to the Sussex Cancer Centre.
The waiting room was empty again. We sat and chatted some more.
RRRRRRRIINNG went the fire bell. Silence.
Slam went the fire doors. All on their own.
Oh, said Jackie. They closed all on their own!
We gazed at the doors.
One of them was pushed open. A man dressed head to toe in black and wearing the squeakiest shoes I've ever heard then pushed open the other door.
Squeak, squeak, squeak, squeak. Off he went, walking slowly down the corridor.
Down the same corridor came the sound of people. A man and a younger woman came in and sat down opposite us. He was breathing heavily.
I'm so out of breath, he said.
The doors to my left opened and one of the nurses looked out at the man.
Come on, Stephen, he said.
Then looked at me.
Oh, he said. You're here.
I am! I said brightly.
You'd better come first, he said, apologising to Stephen, who wasn't remotely bothered, as his appointment wasn't for 10 minutes.
I changed in the little cubicle.
Walked down the corridor to B1.
There was the nurse, preparing the bed. Without its covering, it looked strange, with holes and black bits of metal.
The nurse covered it with paper, and on I hopped.
This time I had a picture of Jesus and I on a tightrope. Jesus riding a bike on a tightrope, with me clinging to his neck. The tightrope stretched from one mountain to another, and we gathered speed as we approached the second mountain, shouting with laughter and exhilaration.
All done, Helen, said the nurse.
And helped me up and on with my robe.
We drove home in wind and sunshine, getting a couple of lattes and danish pastries (warm!) from the Flour Pot café.
This is the life.