six weeks on a sunbed

Today I completed my course of radiotherapy treatment which lasted for 30 days.

The radiotherapy treatment entailed lying face down, with my face supported on a plastic pad, on a sun bed while the radiographers position your body into precisely the correct position for the X-rays to hit the right place.

Radiotherapy is an very exact science and the nurses would typically spend 5-10 minutes meticulously preparing for the procedure. All I had to do was ‘lie heavy’ and relax. Occasionally the nurses would gently move my buttocks slightly as they took various readings and checked and double checked various measurements to the nearest millimetre. The height and position of the sun bed would also be adjusted slightly and I was surprised to hear that the machines would actually allow for the slight movement of the body caused by normal breathing.

In another blog, in another universe, the prospect of a pretty nurse politely asking whether she could ‘pull your boxers down just slightly’ (so she could see the marker tattoos) would be amusing but the radiography team were just brilliant – welcoming, friendly, professional, reassuring and, above all, caring.

After the positioning and setup was complete, the nurses would all leave the room, someone would hit the ‘Last Man Out’ button and a warning beep would sound 10 times before the machines buzzed and whirred into action. The treatment was very quick – less than 5 minutes before the nurses returned to lower the sun bed (‘Back to ground floor’) and it was over for another day.

The treatment is completely painless – you don’t feel anything – not even a warm glow in your buttocks. I experienced a few side effects in the final three weeks which I was forewarned about as the radiotherapy has a cumulative effect. Consequently, the skin around my rear end became rather sore and tender. However, the specialist radiography nurses gave me creams and then some wonder gel that helped manage this discomfort.

Initially, the treatment is aimed at the general tumour area and in the final week (phase 2), there is a lower dose that is targeted at the central core.

For today’s final sun bed session, I treated the nurses to a glimpse of my ‘Superhero’ boxer shorts which was very well received. As I had been treated by the same team for six weeks, I had built up a relationship with the fantastic radiography team so I gave them a ‘Thank You’ card and some biscuits to share at coffee time.

As these lovely ladies had endured looking at, and occasionally having to touch, my big, fat, hairy bottom every morning for six weeks, I felt it was the least I could do.

What next ? Well – there is evidence that radiotherapy continues to act on the tumour after treatment has stopped so I will have MRI and CT scans again in mid-April to assess progress.