It was my first day of radiotherapy. I had 6 weeks to go. I didn't know what to expect. I heard it was quick and painless (at first)and that was comforting. I said goodbye to my mother who remained calm and positive (on the outside) and i walked down the hall alone. I was given my own "special gown" (the nurse told me I could have that for six weeks and I had my own special hook..."Aren't I lucky?", I thought)and told to change into it. There was a row of patients waiting their turn. They all sat silently staring at the grey walls. Each person pretended to not notice the other. Each person trying to hide their bodies as best as they could.I knew they were all thinking the same as me, "Where did the bastard get you?". I have to be honest, many of them were quite a bit older than me. My first thought was, "This isn't fair, I'm around 40 years younger than these people; they've lived their life!" Then I hated myself for such a horrible thought. Why is my life anymore important than theirs? What makes me so special? What makes me any different? Why not me? I silently sent all my love and best wishes to them and said my first of many prayers..for them, for me. The silence was broken by a man who entered after me. He sat beside me gleaming. As he smiled he asked, "So how long have you been having radiotherapy?" "It's my first day actually." "Oh, your first time around?" I didn't quite understand what he meant and then he explained... 'This is my fifth time. They can't help me anymore apart from keeping me comfortable. I'm on a win actually, I've been given another two months max. They didn't think I'd last this long". He continued to smile. He spoke of his family, his teenage children....and then it started to sound like..."Blah blah blah blah". I couldn't hear him anymore. I practiced my fake smile which I'd become accustomed to over the past week since diagnosis and would continue to use. The nurse called me in. I'm sure she was talking to me. I'm sure she asked me some questions. I didn't hear. Would I end up like him? Is that what this is all about? I looked down at my "special gown" and I cried in the change room silently. When my first session was finished I walked down the corridor and greeted my mother. I showed her a gleaming smile. (Little did I know how good I would become at this.) I still think of him. I still think of his teenage daughters. I still wonder about his smile.
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Regular Contributor
Oh Ruby what an ordeal for you. I remember vividly walking all alone (no-one was able to come with me) from radiology where I had my picc line inserted to oncology at the hospital, 5 weeks after surgery. There were the lazyboy chairs with a variety of people - older than me, younger than me, some looking very ill,others smiling and chatting.As the hours dragged by with the infusion slowly dripping into my line, I thought how can I deal with 6 months of this. Like you I looked around and thought that all of these people were in the same boat but the sense of being totally alone at that point was hard to swallow and cover with a brave smile. One of the hardest things for me was that I kept meeting people that I knew in the clinic - some my age, some older- most not going to make it, but like the gentleman you met, maintaining the facade. We would exchange hugs and wish each other the best. It was what was left unsaid that was important. On my treatment days my parents would always come and spend the last 2 hours(of a 4 and a half hour treatment) with me and take me to lunch. No matter how I felt I ate lunch and chatted with them as they didn't deserve any more grief than to see their daughter with a whopping great permanent canula in her arm being delivered toxic chemicals every 2 weeks. People always commented on how brave I was but I believe it has nothing to do with bravery. We go through what we do because there is no other viable choice. (Some may argue with this)So we present the "brave" smile and tell everyone we feel fine when all we want to do is cry. Continue to think of him and his chat to you and his openness. As you continue through this experience his smile may be something that you take with you. For me, it is those small moments that allowed me to stay sane through it all. Take care, Samex
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Deceased
Ah Ruby, you take me back a few years to my first day of radiotherapy. similar routine except that I had a pigeon hole for my gown - mine for the next few weeks. It was incredibly important to me as suddenly I changed from being the nameless person in the white backless gown to actually existing with my name on a pigeon hole. You also take me to my future. I've already had some radiotherapy that is palliative - great care was taken to ensure that I realised that this might slow down the progression but it would not stop things. So in a few years time I may well be that man, telling people in the waiting room about my children and grandchildren, trying to keep up a front, keep wearing the happy mask. I had a similar experience of being in the general waiting room and an elderly lady wearing an ill fitting wig, that kept slipping backwards, talking, talking , talking about her experience. All I could do was be polite and try to make polite noises. I feel as if I let her down. I was actually quite lucky when I had my first session of radiotherapy - I met the same people most of the time and we talked to each other - not about much or anything important. We also shared in doing the jigsaw puzzles that they used to have in the waiting rooms. Over one of those, putting pieces of jigsaw together a young lady, more than young enough to be my daughter, talked to me about her grandfather. She came in with him each day, brought him in for his treatment. She told me all about him, what he had done through his life, about his family and through it just how important he was to her. I felt privileged to be the person that she chose to tell this to. I often think of her and hope that my relationship with my grandchildren might be as rich as hers was with her grandfather. It then bring me on to one of my pet hates - waiting rooms. They seem designed deliberately to isolate us, to hinder us having any relationship with our fellow human beings who are in a similar situation. If any of you get a chance Google "Maggies Centres" and have a look at the philosophy of these centres in the UK, that arose from an architect getting cancer. There the waiting rooms are designed to look like a lounge room in a home, with a kitchen off them where you can make yourself a cup of teas and chat to other people. That in turn brings me on to one of my passions - the importance of us telling each other our stories. Our stories are the way we make meaning of what has happened to us, how we project our identity and how we learn from each other. It is through stories and the telling of stories that the ways of understanding our world become possible. So thank you Ruby for sharing with us this part of your story. Cheers Sailor The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach - waiting for a gift from the sea. Anne Morrow Lindbergh
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Super Contributor
Hiya Ruby, sailor and samex I just want to thank you all for sharing. As sailor has mentioned by sharing out stories helps others and ourselves in so many ways. For me its a little weird as i have yet to commence my radiotherapy and yet having had cancer previously i can relate to most of what has been said. I am a bit like a cat on a hot tin roof at the moment and not particularly wanting to start radiotherapy at all, common sense prevails and i will do it. In saying that it has been comforting to read all that you have written and i guess in a sense has taken me back to a time before in so many ways. So, thank you all once again and also others that contribute on this website. As someone else has mentioned, i also am glad i have found it. I have been mentioning to other people that stay where i stay about this site as all are country folk and it helps for them to have another means of support and quite often support that is offered in a unique way. Julie
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Regular Contributor
Sailor and all, I so agree that it is important to tell the stories. For some of us, just the telling and the sharing is therapeutic. We often don't want to burden others who aren't in the same space with our thoughts but to talk to others I find so helpful. That's why I keep coming back here. I have a friend at yoga who is dealing with palliative treatment at the moment and when I was having treatment 18 months ago she was a wonderful listener as she understood the unsaid words. When she restarted treatment she once apologised for "going on about it". Of course I stopped her in her tracks and we continued to discuss the day to day stuff that others , try as they might, don't truly understand. Perhaps what Ruby's story tells us is that if we all take some time to share - whatever the forum- the ride may be little easier. Samex PS I hate waiting rooms as well, and we all have to spend so much time flicking through out of date magazines! I take my book.
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Not applicable
Hi Ruby, I'm a new to the site, I read your blog and it took me back to my first day of chemo... I was so unsure and nervous.. and when I was told of all the possible side effects of chemo just before treatment, well I just wanted to turn and run... but I was already in the comfy blue chair. What calmed me was looking around at everbody else sitting calmly in their blue chairs, with their drips already attached to their arms, one was sleeping, one was reading, one was talking to her friend and then laughing at a joke. I thought, it can't be so dreadful if they can sit there so calmly, so can I! I drew courage from my unknown companions,they never realised it but they gave me the strength to get thru my first chemo session. And those dreaded side effects, thankfully I was lucky enough not to experience anything other than sore joints, extreme tiredness, feeling like I had a bad case of the flu and of course, I lost my hair. Each of us has a different cancer journey and yet we remain linked through our experiences. We are touched along the way, by a conversation, an observation, a kindness, a smile.
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