I wake up bright, early and bushy tailed. It’s another glorious day in sunny Sydney and a great day for a mini break – albeit a radioactive one. What with all the midnight word tsunamis and my increasing fatigue – I’m genuinely looking forward to the down time. I’ll have nothing to do! 48 hours of Sam time – bring it on!
David is nothing short of horrified at the amount of luggage I’m taking for three days (especially as he’s carrying most of it!) I’ve packed everything but the kitchen sink, just to cover all my bases. My bags are weighed down with a complete Italian course, 2 books, my laptop, 2 dvd box sets and a manicure kit! I’m afraid there won’t be enough time to do everything. In addition, I’ve also got enough delicious iodine free food to feed a family of 4 in the event of a nuclear holocaust!
We take the short walk to the hospital, “check in” and have the routine blood test to check I’m not pregnant and my thyroid levels. (For the record, despite how it looks, there’s no baby David in my belly!) Then we see the doctor who is the quintessential mad scientist. He’s called Lucien – how could he anything but a nuclear scientist with a name like that? He’s very cool and has a sense of humour drier than my iodine free rice cakes. Our little meet and greet is quite a hoot. He laughs when I tell him about my iodine free diet, and says I’m hardcore, he says that he usually just tells people to avoid seafood! Oh well, think of all the calories I saved myself! He tells me that the radioactive pill giving is pretty sci fi and not to get too freaked out about it but all I really want to know is… can I take pictures? He says no but only because he’s too shy, which I secretly think is jolly unsporting of him!
Then we go upstairs to the tenth floor where we leave all my baggage, my room is still being cleaned so we go downstairs for coffee and they give us a ring when they’re ready! How’s that for service! I’m thrilled with the room – much nicer than I expected. My excitement is completely genuine, and the nurse is a bit shocked – she said people don’t usually get quite that excited! The room is bright and airy, and I’m totally self contained with my own fridge, kettle, stereo, TV (with four movie channels!) an armchair and a balcony with the most amazing views of the city. Absolutely awesome! I think they should be less worried about whether I can take isolation for a few days and more worried about whether I’ll want to leave! I know it’s wrong to wish your life away but I can’t wait to wake up in the morning and open the curtains to that view!
After an interesting “iodine free” lunch (I mean it’s “iodine free” but not as I know it,) we meet the Junior Endocrinologist who promises faithfully to give me Thyroxin upon departure… now that’s what I call something to look forward to! She also gives me a speedy mental health assessment and after assuring her, that I won’t jump off the balcony, she agrees to unlock the door and let me loose outside!
David leaves after lunch and immediately I take myself and my book outside and bask in the sunshine. I could get really used to this! You know, I’m finding that everyday there’s something to put my own life in perspective. My room here as well as overlooking the city, the harbour and the ocean, is adjacent to the hospital helipad. The chopper just airlifted someone to the emergency room. That’s what you call a bad day. My day is panning out pretty well in comparison!
Then the fun really starts – the radioactive rabble arrive with a trolley and a big metal box with a big, fat radioactive sticker on the front and we get down to business. It is so cool – just like something out of a movie. First the safety officer goes through all the stuff we talked about with Lucien and the doc from the first consult. He kindly asks that if I feel the need to vomit, I do it down the loo and not the sink as this causes a whole heap of problems although not as many as if I miss and get it on the floor! Radioactive vomit can put this room out of action for weeks – it reminds me that for today at least, I’m totally toxic! He also tells me that today is the day when I’m quite simply, at my most radioactive. By tomorrow, I’ll lose about 70% of my radioactivity and then each day a little bit more, for about the next two weeks, after which, I won’t be a radioactive hazard to anyone. I figure as this high level of radiation is only going to be for one day, then I really should try and make the most of it!
Then another guy talks to me about the scan on Friday and then Lucien wears a special apron, gloves and a mask and opens the big metal box. It’s all steamy in there and there’s a vial. It’s like some weird Doctor Who ceremony, I have to step forward take the vial out of the metal box and swallow the capsule which to the untrained eye looks like a regular panadol! Then they give me a super cool floro-yellow radioactive bracelet (which I get to keep as a souvenir) and off they go on their merry way. That’s it. I’m radioactive. Very radioactive.
So, I celebrate my new red hot status with a bottle of water, and take me and my book and some good tunes onto the balcony. Now this is what I call treatment!
One of the nicest surprises has been that my iphone works perfectly so technically, or should I say, technologically, I’m not in isolation at all. Quite to the contrary, I’m posting photos and status updates on facebook like it’s going out of fashion and receiving really inspirational messages from all my lovely friends and family around the world. And of course, my friends here are just a phone call away. I guess the “sharing” whether it be on facebook, by phone, by text or email is two fold. I get to communicate with the world beyond my balcony and my friends and family can “share” my experience and see that everything is just tickety boo here. I’m a little puzzled as to why people are using adjectives such as “brave” and “strong” to describe me and my response to this experience. Personally, I think it would be positively churlish if I had any cause to complain. I have a big, comfortable room, outside space and every need is catered for. Well, actually, I retract the last statement. Not every need… I think they forgot about the mini bar. A twilight gin and tonic would have been nice.
Yes. I’m being treated for Cancer. And… so what?! Does that make me a hero? Nah, no way. I’m not an expert on Cancer treatments per se but I know that Chemo can be pretty horrific. Sometimes, it makes one feel sicker than the Cancer which it’s actually fighting. Targeted radiotherapy can be exhausting, painful and last for a while. I took one panadol sized tablet. That’s it! I’m not feeling unwell and my treatment doesn’t come with any side effects. Not negative ones anyway. I have to take some time off work, limit my diet for another week or so and take a few space age precautions for about 14 days which are inconvenient at worst. Remember, I’m not in hospital for my own benefit, I’m just here to safeguard the wellbeing of others! When I think of someone who is brave I think of Mo, who even when faced with a premature death sentence, stuck two fingers up at Cancer and lived what relatively little life she had to the max. And then some! Or when I think of strong, I think of my Uncle David who’s in his seventies and a double amputee. Everything for him is a challenge. Does it stop him living his life to the full? Like hell, it does! He’s a regular everyday hero, and you know what? He never moans. Ever. So I think to say I’m brave and strong, could get you well and truly arrested by the adjective police! To be brave and strong, you have to face and overcome adversity, and believe me, right here, right now, there is nothing adverse about my situation. I’m safe, I’m well and I’m happy.