Today was the day; one of those rare days when Dunedin is the most beautiful city on the planet: green hills; the harbour like glass; deep blue sky with the sun perpetually low so it always feels like 9:00 am; crisp and warm and still and clear all at the same time. Then, the same carpark,the same waiting room with the same magazines, the same gown, the same shorts that fall down unless you hold them up with one hand. A different machine this time though. This one was spectacularly high tech.
I was shown down a corridor and into rooms with no windows. One room had a curved desk and banks of monitors: big, flat screen, sharp looking monitors, two displaying a movie of the bench where I would soon be lying, one with a very high definition x ray photo of a pelvis, maybe mine, and another couple with columns of incomprehensible but important looking gobbledegook. Then, just down the hallway was the room with the bench itself and a machine that looked like it meant business. It was covered in high gloss plastic coatings and small glass panels. The room itself had green lasers shining from the walls. It all looked like a set from Star Trek; the radiation machine like a flying saucer on a stalk , the roof lights which came on and off of their own accord, the automatic door which made a trekkie type noise when it opened and shut.
Then I laid me down to sleep and asked the Lord my soul to keep.
They put my feet in the polystyrene blocks and precisely aligned the lasers with my tattoo marks. They drew on me with pens. They measured. They chatted. They retired from the room and said they would be back in 20 minutes and please don't move. I didn't. The bed did - precisely millimetres at a time as someone fiddling with a joystick in front of one of the monitors lined me up. And the machine did. Very very precisely. Slow purposeful arcs around me, pausing to sniff out the best spots and then to speak to me in a quiet high pitched hum -quite possibly in Klingon.
As best I could, I kept awareness of my body. I felt the life in my body and felt the hugeness of the earth beneath me as she held both me and the machine. Disinterestedly I observed the itch in my shoulder but felt no inclination to scratch it. I observed the breath at the tip of my nose and my own stillness. I was in no position to meditate but meditation techniques were very helpful both in keeping me still and in letting the whole thing pass me by without any particular emotion. I felt nothing from the process at all, but knew that a dozen or so very narrow beams were intersecting at the precise point somewhere in my lower abdomen around which the machine was rotating and that they were combining to destroy tissue; healthy tissue that would grow back and cancerous tissue that would not. The intersection point was so small I would feel nothing today or tomorrow, and possibly not until there were a couple of dozen such points competing for my body's healing resources, in another few weeks.
There were conversations with the staff before and after; I was told things I knew already but needed to hear again. Then it was out into the sunshine on Dunedin's quiet streets. Away from the Starship Enterprise and into the beautiful still clear city where clocktowers are made of blue stone and tell out the time with magnificent and welcome approximation.