Saturday, June 10, 2006

Beam me up, Scotty

I’ve now completed week three of my radiation treatment regime and I’m still feeling fine in general. Tired during the day still but so far that’s the only symptom. I’m working most days. I need 28 separate radiation sessions and so far I’ve had 13. I missed one on Memorial day – I guess the radiation doesn’t work on holidays – and one of the sessions this week was cancelled due to a problem with the software. That certainly made me stop and think. One of my jobs relates to software quality and one of the mantras in this field is that there is no such thing as bug-free software. Hmm. I’ve seen enough software bugs that appear only in the most complex circumstances to know that’s true. “Well, Mr. Tunsley, we found that when the headrest is in slot P, the temperature in the room is between 68 and 71 degrees, the weight of the patient exceeds 203 pounds, the machine angle is 42 degrees, the Red Sox lose against the Yankees, and someone is playing online poker on the other computer, the machine actually delivers ten times the dose that we asked for. Wow, it really made a hole right through your body this time, didn’t it? Does it hurt?”

That’s not really fair. I have nothing but full faith in the radiological oncology (there’s two of those ology thingies again in one place, wow) department. They, as all other people I’ve dealt with at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital (to use its full title) are very professional and caring. Well, until yesterday that is. They’ve discovered my blog and all they wanted to do yesterday was talk about the entries instead of me. “I think the blog’s really good, I especially liked the bit about the heart attack. Scary, huh? I bet you thought your time had come. (Chuckle). Take a deep breath for me. Any internal burning sensations? Now what exactly is Portuguese Kale soup?”

I think that secretly they’re a bit miffed that I haven’t discussed the ROD more up to now. So I’ll try to describe the process. I drive into Boston, usually from work. It’s a midday appointment so the traffic isn’t too bad but it still takes anywhere from 35 to 45 minutes. I go into the department and check in with a blue card on a bar code reader. That alerts the techs to stop playing solitaire and set the star trek machine up for me.

I get changed into a hospital robe. They are all like star trek uniforms – not designed for the overweight among us. I did try one of the robes on the shelf marked LARGE ROBES but they would have gone around Pavarotti twice so I gave up on those too. A small aside here; the hospital gowns that are more normally worn, the ones designed to show your bum to the world at large, are known as Johnnies in the US. Collapse in laughter of all UK readers. For my US readers, you should know that in the UK, a Johnny is the slang term for a condom. The first time I went to the doctor in the States I was instructed by the nurse to take my clothes off and put a Johnny on. I had various visions of the treatments I was about to receive. I was a very confused soul.

I am then led into the room containing the death ray machine. One of the ologists (the pretty one) would like to refer to it as the healing rays, but she can’t fool me. All I know is, just before they start trying to beam me up, all the techs run out of the room. Now if these rays are so good at healing, why would they do that? To me, that’s pretty suspicious.

They lay me on a table on a sheet and tell me to make like a log. They move the table to set me up closer to the machine. It’s got lots of lights and buttons with unintelligible text. It’s probably manufactured by Klingons. They tug the sheet around to move me around bodily and line up cross-hairs with the tattooed dots on my body. Then, like I said, they all flee. There’s a brief ‘beam me up, Scotty” type noise, about nine seconds worth. Then the ray gun rotates around me to get me from the back as well. Another beam-up noise. And that’s it.

Forty-five minutes drive in, five minutes treatment, then forty-five minutes back. Well, actually I often take a bit of extra time and have lunch while I’m there. I get free parking while I’m in treatment so I might as well make the most of it.


At 10:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another excellent entry, Roger. It is so human. Did you ever consider a writing career? Cyber hugs to you and Kathy. Love, Monica xx


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