Monday, January 18, 2010

Let your little light shine

Radiation Diary

Day 1: It's no wonder the treatment is carried out in bunkers - the waiting rooms look like bomb sites. There are tatty signs about the place saying sorry for the mess and the delays but no one apologises for the old men sitting about in blue booties. I'd refuse to wear them. Sloop John B is playing on the stereo and is immediately followed by California Dreaming. This is a sign. Two significant songs, just for me. "Don't forget to bring your ID card with you tomorrow" a helpful technician shouts as I leave.

Day 2: "Did your bring your ID card?" No, and I won't be bringing it ever. I know my name, my date of birth, my hospital number and can recite all three in less than 5 seconds. If some crazy fool pretends to be me and goes to the trouble of shaving their head and slicing their boob off to look the part, let them have some radiation. It might just fix what's ailing them. "Which problem does me carrying my ID card solve?" I politely ask. Okay, it wasn't exactly polite but I didn't snarl. Apparently the old chaps in the blue booties sometimes stand up when any name is called and as ( I swear this is as close to a direct quote you'll get without a tape recorder) 'the men are the same age and look the same' occasionally someone gets the wrong dose to the wrong body part. "What if I promise to not let anyone else get up when you call my name? What if before you begin you ask me my name? What if you look at the great big bloody photo of me inside the folder with my name on it and compare it to the person you're about to radiate?" Do you know what she was thinking? "Why don't you, stroppy tart, just bring your ID card like everyone else?" Why not indeed?

Day 3: "I've made you a new ID card." I didn't think it was quite the right time to share my B.N.I but I'll share it with you now. At the start of every radiation session I take off my top and walk bare chested, naked from the waist up, from the little changing cubicle across to the treatment table where a sheet is draped across me for a few seconds before it is removed. The technicians, male and female, then place their hands gently on my naked flesh at either side of my body and wriggle me into position. They are uniformly kind and professional and I actually don't mind the contact. But, despite the best efforts of the sheet draper person I am inevitably topless for much of the time. I would be more comfortable if they were all topless too. That's my B.N.I. Improve patient comfort by disproportionately increasing the discomfort of the staff.

Day 4: Sloop John B and California Dreaming are playing again. It is not a sign. It is the Forrest Gump soundtrack. "What are the men in booties having?" I ask. Much squirming and verbal wriggling follows. Feet in stocks, it turns out they are having their 'groin' area nuked. They are allowed the decency of pulling down their pants whilst under the sheet. More evidence of the comfort of staff coming first, and fair enough. What young woman wants to look at old geezers bits? It might solve the ID problem though. While faces are the same, my somewhat limited experiences lead me to believe that prostates and their surrounds are very different.

Day 5: Further advances to the B.N I. The males that fondle me must be naked from the waist down for their discomfort levels to be sufficiently high to offset mine. Mum commented the other day that I didn't seem to miss my boob. She's right. I've always been offended by the notion that women shouldn't go topless on the beach but men can. I have never come across sensible rationale for this discrimination. If the male radiographers were topless like us sheilas they'd just preen. If their bottom-half bits responded to the cold of the radiation table in a similar way to my lone nipple we'd all have a good laugh at the absurdity of what is taking place.

None of my chemo nurses had received chemo and none of the surgeons I've had bothered to have similar surgery. I no longer listen to their approximations of the pain, side effects, possible adverse outcomes. They know jack.

Yesterday I had an appointment with my oncologist Associate Professor Bridget Robinson. I had the following questions prepared:

1) Given that I've started menstruating again, in your years of experience, does this mean I am not going to experience early menopause as expected or does it mean nothing of significance yet?
2) Might my eggs have survived chemo and be useful for my friends and family who are having challenges conceiving?
3) Will any fertility hormone drugs I might contemplate having reactivate the cancer?
4) In your twenty plus years of treating cancer what do you think are the most significant lifestyle changes to make in order to prevent its return?
5) The biggest cause of stress in my life is my family. Should I leave them all and stay alive miserably on my own in a cave? Or stay with them and get cancer again? What are your suggestions for finding the middle ground?
6) Seeing as how I hate being fat, and am (so far) useless at being disciplined around food and exercise, can you prescribe some wicked form of medical 'speed' that will deal to the fat?
7) In your professional opinion should I still drink alcohol?
8) Since beginning radiation my scar is tighter than before. I am the defending runner-up of the following prestigious titles: Sumner Tennis Club Mixed Doubles Plate, Women's Singles plate, Women's Doubles Plate - should I continue playing tennis in the 2010 championship and work through the pain or take stronger drugs?
9) Do you have the results of my echo cardiogram? Shall I continue with Herceptin or have I already sustained damage to my most important muscle?
10) Don't you wish your girlfriend was hot like me?

Bridget didn't leave her office to see me. Her daughter or maybe her great niece - anyway, some child posing as a registrar popped in to the consulting room instead. All terribly nice, but barely out of med. school.

She: How's it all going?
Me: Great.
She: Any questions?
Me: No.
She: Worries?
Me: No
She: Concerns?
Me: No
She: Are you sure you don't have any questions?
Me: Nothing I can think of other than why did nobody tell me that you were going to be here.

I know experience has to be gained at sometime but so far every time I've bothered to ask one of the teenagers a question they've had to 'ask around' and get back to me. At least Dr Indian Spunkyfeatures has Indian Spunkyfeatures. Perhaps he'd like to take part in my B.N.I.

Anyway, I promised all 30+ of my Facebook friends that I was going to shine like a bottle of plutonium during radiation just like the boss. Check him out anytime you need a lift.


Kyla said...

It was cool when we passed Indian Spunkyfeatures in the corridor and he said 'Hi Sacha' with a big spunkyfeatures smile! He really is spunky.

I like your B.N.I. I think it should apply to gynecologists too! hehehe :)

Anonymous said...

I typed your name into Facebook. Thought I could be your friend too, to boost your numbers. 3 results. One no profile pic. the other two women HAVE NO HAIR and they are not you. WHAT ARE THE CHANCES that all three sacha coburns on facebook are bald? Paula - there is only one of me on FB. change your profile pic so I know it's you!

Sacha Coburn said...

My first ever response to a comment. Kia ora Paula. It may be chemo, or just old age but I have no idea which Paula you are and so facebook gives me 1,500 options! I am the ONLY Sacha Maree Coburn on facebook and I have a photo up! It's me - the pretty bald one with a pink background! Be my friend. Please. Whoever you are. (I think one of the imposters has a tightly pulled ponytail rather than true baldness - it can't be faked you know!)

Anonymous said...

Found you: added you :)

_Morgan_ said...

I love your writing. And I reallt like the way you think. :)