Breast cancer lesson 133: Embrace those tattoos! It’s radio planning time

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It’s official. I am a rebel. This morning I woke up a tattooless woman. Now, I have three!

Ok, so when I say tattoos, they are pretty unremarkable. Here’s one, and I must say it looks more like a misplaced biro mark or poppy seed. It certainly won’t be doing the rounds at parties, that’s for sure! But it is permanent and the hospital radiographer used the word ‘tattoos’ so I’m taking it. Surgery took my boob and tummy fat, chemo took the hair I spent 32 years learning how to style (it won’t come back exactly the same I doubt – let’s just hope it’s not grey) and will no doubt scar me in some other way, so I see this as radiotherapy’s way of getting in on the action and making its mark.

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As appointments go, the radiotherapy planning session is fascinating. Down in the windowless lower ground floor of the hospital I sat in a waiting room with just one other (a rare treat) ready for my biro dots. Here’s what happened:

  • It started with a quick pep talk from a radiographer. She talked me through the planning session, checked it was me who signed the consent form and took a photo (just to make sure they blast the right person in future).
  • Next, I was collected once more from the waiting room and ushered into a room with a CT scanner, a bed and a variety of plinths. The team of three (including a student) were really friendly and it was lovely to see them getting on so well. I was also amused by the party mix playing in the background, which was later revealed to be a playlist from someone’s younger days. Certainly livened up proceedings.
  • Once I’d taken my top off (again) and popped on a gown (best to wear a top and skirt or trousers rather than a dress so you don’t have to take everything off), I was asked to sit on the edge of the bed in a specific position. I then had to lift my legs up to rest against a metal plate at the end of the bed, before shuffling my bum to rest against something behind me. Bum in place, I was asked to lie down, clasp my hands together and raise them above my head, placing my arms into two arm rests. Finally, I was wiggled around (they ask you to let yourself go heavy in the bed so they do all the moving) to get my body in the correct position.
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  • Position sorted, the felt tip pen came out. Then started the art class all over my boobs! Here’s one of the marks (that thankfully I do get to wash off tonight). The marks were accompanied by little stickers and lots of shouting out of letters and numbers (apparently my arms are CYK). I believe this is to make sure they record accurate measurements so that I am positioned in exactly the same way for every dose.
  • Art class complete, the CT scanning began. It takes a matter of moments and is completely painless. I did start to get pins and needles up my arm at one point (I think this may have something to do with the ongoing peripheral neuropathy in my hands), but thankfully it did fade so I didn’t need to move.
  • After the scan came the fun part – the tattoos. A bit of ink, a few tiny pricks, some cotton wool to stem the slight bleeding (I bleed at the sight of a needle) and it was all done!
  • Dignity restored, I was handed a piece of material to bring with me to each session (I was lying on it so imagine it is to do with the alignment or protection – if you know please post here) and my times for the 15 blasts. I now know that 2pm on Monday 15 September is the end! 
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Lesson of the day? Don’t wear a white bra and shirt to a radio planning meeting. A bit of blood and felt tip do not clean clothes make! Also, maybe best not to wear sandals in hot weather that make your feet a little whiffy. 

I was also amused that the book I am currently reading started to allude to the children’s book We’re going on a bear hunt just before I was called in for my appointment. Regular readers may remember my connection with the book and the words inside. Click here for lesson 107 and a quick reminder! 

Biro dots in place, I am ready for my blasting!

NB: as a side note, my piece on running for Breast Cancer Care, has been picked up by The Guardian and is currently on the homepage and the Life and Style section. Duncan’s marvellous pink shorts have made it into the nationals! Click here to see them in all their glory.