The good thing about going to Hospital outpatients is that you get a parking permit for the hospital carpark. It saves $2! Woohoo! Who would NOT have cancer when you can get deals like that? I got my $2 worth yesterday. I was there at 8:00 am bright eyed and bushy tailed, well maybe bushy is not the word. There's details about bowel preparation I will spare you. I changed into one of those hospital gowns that someone has spent an entire post graduate design degree on getting to look as unflattering and to fasten as puzzlingly as possible. Then, with my human clothes in a plastic bag, I went into the waiting room. A waiting room is a waiting room is a waiting room. They all have a look about them: neat rows of chairs bought from a catalogue; cheery posters on the walls advising you in 3 languages to get a mole map done; and magazines. Piles of magazines. I read the only two copies of Classic Car in the heap and then reflected that there were 33 more visits to go and only Women's Weekly and Proctology Today left. There was also a stack of jigsaw puzzles. 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles. Dozens of the darned things. People obviously spend serious amounts of time in this waiting room.
The preparation took effect. I was asked for number 2 but on no account number 1 if you catch my drift and sorry about the unfortunate turn of phrase there. Anyway, tricky. Then forms to fill in. Advice to listen to. A pleasant woman with trendy glasses and an extremely trendy hairdo who led me through the whole process and into another CT scanning machine.
This one was was made by Phillips, the people who make microwaves and toasters. It had lasers to line me up to the nearest millimetre, and special little foam blocks to hold my feet in place. The pleasant woman and her beautiful boy assistant measured me with very precise looking metal rulers and retired outside to press the buttons, because, apparantly, it's not safe to be too close to this machine, and no-one would catch them dead - again, sorry about the unfortunate phrasing - in there when the lights went on. I was in there. The lights went on. It buzzed. It whirred. It moved me back and forth through the browning tray. They came back in and drew on me with felt tip pens. They measured me again with the lasers. Then the pleasant woman gave me my first ever tats: one on each hip. Very stylish. None of your crass anchors or skulls, but a minimalist rendering of a bird (just the eye. Actually, just the pupil.) And then it was more instructions and then home.
All this measuring and scanning now goes into a computer which runs a program so complex it will take a couple of weeks for programmers and physicists (yes, actual physicists) to work it all out. Radiotherapy works by blasting the affected area with very high energy x-rays. Everything that gets hit by the x-rays suffers, but the normal tissue recovers from the assault and the cancerous tissue doesn't. It's a great process except that x-rays are no respecters of boundaries and are very stupid. They hit the cancer and just keep right on truckin', right on through some bits that, on the whole and all things considered, you would really prefer them not to visit. With me they are using a quite new advance in radiotherapy. Instead of one big high energy beam they hit the desired area (well, actually, it's the undesired area but lets not get too pedantic) with a whole lot of small low energy beamlets, each one coming from a different angle. This means that while the target gets the required high dose, all the sourrounding tissues get much less. It takes a clever program to work it all out, and very careful positioning of the target, and by 'target' I mean 'me'. For every one of the 33 sessions, I have to be in exactly the same position I was last time, and my innards have got to be in pretty much the same state of fullness and emptiness if you catch my drift, and sorry for the phrasing once again. Hence the measuring. And the tatttoos. And the preparation.
So, in a couple of weeks, it's back to the magazines and the puzzles and the funny gowns. And the free carpark. Woohoo! All those $2 savings and I'll have my Ducati in no time!