Saturday, 17 October 2015

Radio: Still Okay. (8/30)

I always have to check in when I get to the Radiotherapy ward. I go to the desk and hand my appointment card over to one of the smiley ladies sitting waiting for me – one has dyed dark hair and killer brows, one has the most perfect luscious bob much like mine but better, and one is a Spanish sweetheart who always looks a little sad for me when I approach.
There's also a guy sat behind the desk and off to my left, an older chap who wears some kind of uniform jumper and always has his head in a little book. When I first noticed him the other day it was Roald Dahl. For the past two days it's been Agatha Christie (two of her novels). I'd quite like to befriend this guy – we could talk books every day. I get the impression he's more of a traditional reader than me though. I'd lend him a YA novel and he'd be so confused.

I'm really grateful that all my radiographers wear name tags. I hate forgetting people's names – I am always so close to doing the Dr Molly Clock trick and holding a person's face right before mine after they tell me their name, repeating this name over and over as I take in their features. Luckily I don't have to resort to that extreme with the radio people, they all have their names emblazoned on their chests. It is tricky, though, to catch their name when they're not looking and not seem like I'm staring at their boobs. Oh yeah, my radiographers are all women. Or have all been women so far. I see men wandering about the ward from time to time, but only ladies deal with me. I wonder if that's deliberate – female patients, female attendees. I can't imagine why they would make it this way, but maybe.

I can safely say now that it definitely takes longer to get me all set up and sorted – ask me for my name, date of birth and first line of my address, clip on the mask, get me all lined up and test the machine – than it does to actually administer my dose of radiation. I am barely in there for the length of a song. I'd say with the prep included, and the time it takes to walk from the waiting room into the special suite and back, it can't be any longer than nine minutes.
I'm so glad we're not driving up to the hospital and back every day just for this tiny period of time. Don't get me wrong, I know driving an hour and a half there and back (on a good day, that is) is the least we can be doing to help me in the long run; you cannot put a price on a healthy brain after all. It's just a bit of a palava some days. Which is why I'm so happy we've been given the flat.
Mama L and I have stayed in the hospital-managed flat in Belmont high street for two nights this week, and will most likely be there for three next week. We're making it homey and getting shit done: I am on a health kick and eating accordingly, we have started binging on Once Upon A Time series one, and in between outings and the aforementioned binging I am setting up my laptop at the cute little dining table and cracking out a few words on my novel (more on that in a sec, I don't want to go off on any tangents in this post as I'm so aware that my last couple have been paragraphs upon paragraphs of mindless word vomit)...

Our new local is Caffe Nero, Sutton High Street. Not the one down opposite Times Square shopping centre (not really a fitting name, goodness me Sutton people!), the one up the top near Morrisons that is so open and lovely and has the nicest team working behind its bar. We go there actually almost every day, use and abuse their free wifi and have at least two drinks each. The team always take my staff discount card and ask which store I work in, then say something along the lines of 'Ahh, you're one of us!' Which makes me do a little happy dance while waiting for my cuppa to be brewed. I have had to tell a couple of them why I'm so far from my store, and not working, though. I try and play it cool – 'Oh, I'm in the Marsden hospital? Yeah, having some treatment. I'll be back at work soon!' (Because I will. I will be straight back to work when all this is over!)

Yes, now, the novel. I figured six five-day weeks of radiotherapy and not much besides that will give me a lot of free time to get this bad boy started. I'm slightly surprised how easy it's been to 'switch on' and write so far. Also, how many plot ideas have come to me while I'm in hospital being zapped, drinking my second americano or even drifting off to sleep (I've learned that's when some of the best ideas hit me, and they're easily forgotten in the morning, so I always note them down now). Also in the last few weeks I've gone from nothing but creative dead ends and unfinished posts to three potential works of fiction and a whole lot of word vomit blog posts, for this my personal blog and my wonderful group blog Oh No, Not Another Blogger. I've also written guest posts here and there. My favourite thing I've done recently was the piece I wrote for Zusterchap, the awesome revolutionary blog devoted entirely to breaking social boundaries and exploring personal experiences. I wrote about a sex myth I heard when I was younger, that actually put me off getting intimate for a while – then made me feel that there was something wrong with me when the thing in the myth didn't occur... I'm bad at explaining. Read it here (family members, family friends, ex-teachers, I apologise and warn you not to read if you don't want to know me on a more explicit level!)

The other day I had a check-up with a radiographer and registrar. They told me my 'bloods' they took the day before had revealed that I am slightly 'on the low side' where my haemoglobin is concerned (I spelled that perfectly first time! Whoop!). Which means I am ever so slightly anaemic. It annoyed me because my mum chimed in and told them that we're a family of veggies, so that may have contributed to that, and the registrar nodded knowingly and rolled her eyes a wee bit. How dare she. We veggies get plenty of protein and iron, thank you very much. The radiographer then piped up with 'eat tons of spinach, Grace!' Pfffttt. She didn't need to force me, I freakin' love spinach. Anyway, since then I've been packing in the iron, and I have my health consultant/mama living with me, don't you worry readers...
The radiographer and registrar seemed very keen to remind me that side effects are a-comin'. They say at first patients shake it off, and wonder why they're being told this over and over because it's all going so well, but apparently it's two weeks in when the nastiness hits. The radiographer seemed to really want me to know that my hair will thin and fall out – which I already knew, obvs – and I reassured her that I was cool with that, and that I'd lost some hair already (and donated it!) because I knew more would be going before long. She then suggested I invest in a hat. That got me excited – 'I have the best HAT FACE!' I grinned at the two ladies, and they immediately agreed. I loathe and detest most things about my body, but damn it the one thing I can be proud of and enjoy is the fact that I have the best Hat Face. I look so good in hats, to the point where I can wear the most boring unsuited outfit, pop on a knitted cap and I'm sorted.

So the overall message of this, yet another post consisting solely of thoughts and recent occurrences thrown together and held in place by hardened crusty word vomit, is that I am okay. I am still pushing on and doing alright – for now, at least. Sure, they may come a time in the next few weeks when I hit a low and need reassurance or just someone to hug me and spoon-feed me my extra-healthy dinner, but for now I'm all good.
I'm still making the most of my weekends, of the precious free time at home; today I got a train to Eastbourne at 9am and spent two hours writing and guzzling coffee in one of my favourite cafes, because that's what I wanted to do, and it's one of the many places I've really been missing these past few days while living elsewhere. Other places would be my living room (sorted that one, Strictly Come Dancing date tonight with my family and a Scotch), my bedroom/newly-revamped happy place (spent last night in there reading and of course sleeping), my little home town high street, and another is central London (going there a few times this week!).
I'm making the most of my energy, too. Also my appetite, and my desperate desire for coffee (which I was told I'd lose for a while as the effects kick in, but so far so good! I think my love of coffee cannot be extinguished by mere radiation).
I'm making the most in general, I think.


Fun little P.S. here: my mum and I got a shout-out while driving home from Sutton yesterday evening. Good old Simon Mayo read my text, which was fab because it meant I didn't have to keep trying to call the station (never getting through) nor did I have to chat on the phone on air. That concept terrified me.
Anyway, 32:50. Check it out!

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