26 May 2014
The “C” word is something nobody wants on themselves, family or friends. Having Cancer changes everything and forces one to re-evaluate the future. Everyday worries and problems of the past get put into the boot when this new front seat passenger comes along. Marjorie is one of those people. She is my patient, friend, and photography enthusiast.
Marjorie rang me the other day before her appointment and wanted a favour of me. She had previously two separate treatments for two unrelated cancers. Now a lesion has appeared in her brain. She is to undergo radiotherapy on her brain daily for a period of 2 weeks. The preliminary treatment had been completed. This included counselling, premedication, and a mask made. This mask is designed to keep the patient in exactly the same place so that accurate repeatable radiation doses can be applied. This is helped with laser guidance. The sparks refer to fireworks but in this case, laser pyrotechnics. Majorie was fascinated with the masks, the machinery and the lasers. She wanted to record the esthetic element of her treatment as the mask and laser lights looked surreal to her. It felt like a theatrical experience even though the procedures were very serious.
Marjorie asked whether I could photograph her experience. Luckily the first day of treatment was my day off. The radiotherapy department were also very obliging and allowed me to be present.
On Monday morning I picked up Marjorie (normally the cancer society can provide volunteers) and we had free parking at the cancer society carpark across the road from the hospital.
Before treatment began Marjorie had a pre radiation interview. After that, the theatrics began as Marjorie lay herself down with the mask on. I started clicking. But the real action started after we evacuated the room. Then the intense radiation began (25Gy/10#). If you received 4 dental xrays, the dose is equivalent to 5 million of these!
Marjorie is a health professional and famliar with hospital protocols. We were both impressed with the care and professionalism of all the staff. They were all friendly too!
But what most of us fail to notice is the amount of work that leads up to the treatment. We tend to notice the million(s) dollar machine but forget all the people that make successful treatment possible. A medical technician made that mask. We have a Medical Physicist who calculates the dose. The Oncologist, Radiologist and a whole heap of other people who also have contributed to Marjories care. Last, but not least, we have the radiotherapists who are with Marjorie during the treatment. Thanks to Clare and Shelley for very good, caring service.
Getting cancer treatment is not just about getting the surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. Its also about getting the support from the community and letting the patient know that we as a society care for them. The volunteers who help with the transport, the free parking, the wonderful staff, the comfortable ward, all help to make the difficult journey tolerable.
I will finish off with a question. What’s Marjorie going to do with the mask when treatment is completed? A patient turned his into a lamp shade. Maybe it could be a cheese grater? Personally I thnk Marjorie will take up fencing -she is such a good battler.
4. Clare and Shelley
8. Mission Control