Today I had my radiotherapy resimulation appointment.
This involved introducing me to yet another piece of medical technology; in this case a linear accelerator. This is basically a super-sized microwave, that uses a wave-guide to focus the microwaves against a heavy-metal plate, which then produces x-rays. These are then collected and funnelled into a tight beam which is directed onto the treatment area (the tumour), which kills the cells at the point of focus, causing the tumour to shrink.
Today was the dummy run to make sure that when they’d lined me up in the machine (using the machines lasers, and my tattoos) that the machine would then rotate itself around me, so as to hit the correct areas inside me. And hopefully nothing else. To do this, rather than have the machine send out a powerful x-ray beam, they set the machine up to only take standard x-rays instead. That way, as the machine moves through its programmed sequence, the operators get a series of x-rays of the places that are going to be nuked, and can double-check them against the plan.
In my case, they’re aiming to irradiate an area about 13cm x 7cm; given that they will irradiate the tumour and a margin of healthy tissue around it, that gives me a very rough idea of the size of the tumour. Note to self: just out of interest, when I next see the surgeon I must ask to see the MRI scans they did, which will allow me to actually see the tumour in detail.
Of course, getting the beam to accurately hit just the tumour requires that I be positioned very accurately in the machine in the first place. From talking to the nurses while they were doing this, they try to get you lined up to the exact mm. And this involves a fair amount of manual positioning – ie, they push and pull you around on the table by tiny amounts until everything is lined up. And the end results were fine, so I’m now good to go, and will start the radiotherapy treatment on Friday the 13th, lasting 5 working days, before going into surgery on the 20th.
Meanwhile the antibiotics have kicked in with a vengeance, and given me a thoroughly upset stomach, which given the ulceration in my bowel, is not an ideal situation. But on the flip side of the coin I’ve noticed the lymph nodes in my throat have gone down, the sore throat has vanished, and I’m not coughing so much. So its a small price to pay to knock that infection on the head and ensure I get into surgery according to plan…