“Hey, how are you?” The pretty radiologist says when I arrive at the cancer centre with Mum this morning. Remember this one from two years ago: she’s beautiful – long dark shiny hair.
“Well, you know,” I say. “Not brilliant or I wouldn’t be coming back for more radiotherapy. Obviously I’ve just had my other boob lopped off and everything, but not too bad.”
“She’s got secondary breast cancer now,” Mum says, looking mournful.
“Oh, on the plus side: the fluffy monster has grown up,” I say. Last time I was here he was a six month old kitten. “Show you.”
So I show her this photo:
“Wow,” she says. “He’s amazing.”
“He is,” I say.
Last time she saw him, he looked like this:
“So, let’s get you started,” she says, leading us into the room.
“Oh, I remember this,” I say, as I see the machine. Fear grips me. It’s uncomfortable in there, as you can see:
“The difference is,” she says, settling us down. “On your left side – you need to hold your breath for thirty seconds at a time: to keep the radiation away from your heart. Can you?”
Looking at Mum, I say: “Um…used to be able to swim a length under water. But I’ve sustained a lot of damage to my lungs since then and…”
“Let’s try, shall we,” the radiologist says. “So, I’m going to put a clip on your nose and a tube in your mouth and it will be like using a snorkel. Is that OK?”
“I expect so,” I say, lying in the machine.
It’s tough, trying to hold one’s breath for thirty seconds with a peg on the nose. Keep trying and don’t get further than a few seconds.
“It’s OK if you can’t do it darling,” Mum says. “It’s not an academic test or…”
“What’s the benefit of this, as opposed to the other method?” I say. “I mean: if I just can’t or…”
“With this tube and the machine, we can get better coverage,” the radiologist says. “It’s more exact. It’s better for us and…”
“And what percentage of people can do it?” I say.
“Most people,” she says. “But that’s when it’s not secondary cancer. If you can’t manage the tube, we just put a lead barrier in a part of the machine.”
“And I mean,” I say, feeling defeated, “what’s the risk of heart damage?”
“About one in every hundred patients will experience heart damage, in about thirty years time,” she says.
Sitting up, I laugh. “I’m not going to be here in thirty years,” I say. “Look: I can hold a plank for two minutes, I’m just going to make myself do this or…”
“Wow,” she says. “That’s amazing. Two minutes?”
“Yeah, well, I have done,” I say, thinking that it’s been a while.
Eventually, I achieve holding-my-breath-for-thirty-seconds. Excellent.
Today’s cocktail is a Plymouth Sidecar: Plymouth gin, Cointreau and lemon juice. There’s a bit of Grand Marnier in there too as ran out of Cointreau.
“Just need some dinosaurs for my cocktail photo,” I say to Mum.
“Why does it have to have them?” Mum says, even though she’s a palaeontologist.
“It just does,” I say. It’s the dinosaurs that make or break the cocktail photos. Am excited that in this one the bead tyrannosaurus is climbing into the drink: a La Brea gin pit, if you will.
Attached photo is my Space Oddity outfit. Am sure it’s the best clothing that the radiotherapy centre has ever seen…
Had better get going: there are People coming for dinner and need to help Mum.
Happy Friday everyone!
*2008. Horror film written and directed by John Suits and Gabriel Cowan.