RADIO THERAPY (LinAc) Day ONE! – 11-Jul-2011

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I was quite glad we had arrived early – we had expected rush hour traffic but it seems few people work in South Wales! There were no appreciable build ups of traffic either as we drove past Newport on The M4 nor as we drove on to The Bryn Glas Tunnel and on past Cardiff at around the speed limit almost all of the way – unimpeded by people on their way to work!

Then on to exit 32 and into WhitChurch and Velindre.

The procedure once checked in was to wait in the waiting room of the Machine one is calibrated to! In my case LA3.

The Linear Accelerator is a large piece of equipment with a large price tag of between £1.2 & 1.5 Million + the cost of installation maintenance and a hands on crew of 3 in a spacious and well lit room.

As you wait in the waiting room it is clear many of the patients are regulars and know eachother as they sit there with their issue blue plastic bags as slippers! This is designed, I understand, to track the minimum of outside contaminant into the machine area.

Also it soon becomes clear that dependent on what exact location is being zapped whether you are a drinker or a pee-er! I gather people with prostate cancer being zapped have to drink a certain amount of water before their treatment whereas I with a tumour on the uretal stub on the bladder am expected to empty my bladder as much as I can.

These different perfomances to order are designed to ensure that each treatment the organ concerned will be the same size and position!

The machine or should I more kindly call it an instrument is similar to this one but different!! Though it is made by Elektra:

The gantry itself rotated as do the individual heads as the bed liftf and lowers and moved in the lateral plane to get positioning spot on.

Then it is onto the metal monster (well plastic coated) where one is positioned EXACTLY and the three tattoos from assesment last week are lined up with the lasers  (one on each hip approx on the joint and the third on the pubic bone). Positioning is and needs to be very precise and then a scan is done to identify excatly where the tumour is.
The large Accelerator head is then swung through various positions to take exact measurements befor the 3 operators withdraw to safety and out of the room whilst you are left on the table in exactly the right position for the accelerated particles to be fired through me.

In my case my oncologist has decided the dosage (length of bombardment) and direction, which is 3 positions of the beam/particle accelerator one from aboveslightly obliquely and two from the left side at different angles.

I presume the oblique is to avoid the particles passing through the spine on the way out!

The beam of accelerated particles continues from each position for between 15 & 28 seconds it seems – thereby determining the dose or for that matter damage done!

The Particles enter the body and pass out the other side, I gather doing damage all the way through, so on any one visit a straight line of damage is done through 3 lines but each passes through the tumour. Next visit the beam will pass through 3 slightly different lines but every time Zapping the tumour.

There is no pain sensation in fact the only giveaway the machine is on is that everyone legs it out of the room and one has a David Howarth moment; I hope you have read the WWII epic of survival ‘We Die Alone‘ which he wrote or that comment will make little sense!

Also as the ray actually fires the machine makes a noise similar to an electrical shorting of a cable.

The whole procedure takes only a few minutes and there is no realisation that it has been done!

Then it is clamber off the machine, in my case due to having lost all my stomach muscles and nerve instructions in 2001 due to the operation, subsequent MRSA infection of the wound and gross hernia of the wound – the staff help me back to a sitting position.

Then cheery chats and ‘see you tomorrows’ and back onto The M4 for the 70+ mile round trip. Remembering to take ones blue plastic bag slippers with one!

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I Have Been Fighting Cancer since 1997 & I’M STILL HERE!
I Have Cancer, Cancer Does NOT Have Me
I just want to say sorry for copping out at times and leaving Lee and friends to cope!
Any help and support YOU can give her will be hugely welcome.
I do make a lousy patient!

If YOU want to follow my fight against Cancer from when it started and I first presented with symptoms see The TAB just below the Header of this Blog. called >DIARY of Cancer< just click and it will give you a long list of the main events in chronological order.
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Posted by: Greg Lance-Watkins
tel: 01291 – 62 65 62
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