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I had my first radiotherapy treatment on Monday evening.  Sam wanted to drive me there, and because I was rather nervous on the journey to the hospital I didn’t say much (not that I’m much of a talker anyway).  We arrived at 18:30 just in time for the last appointment of the evening, but instead of seeing an empty waiting room, it was overflowing with patients waiting for radiotherapy.

One of the CT scanners had broken down, and so there was a backlog of patients all now having to use the only scanner available.  We were told to ‘go for a coffee’ and return an hour later.  Not a good start!   We walked around the main concourse and found a café, but the time seemed to pass very slowly.  When we returned to the Radiotherapy Department there were still 6 patients to be seen.

By the time it came for me to be treated it was 20:40 and I was more angry than nervous.  The mask fitted snugly with a few adjustments, and I asked them to switch on the CD player so that I could listen to my audio book.  However, the scanner was too noisy, and I couldn’t hear a word.  The treatment took 20 minutes, and we didn’t get home until 22:00.

Not a very good start, but while sitting in the café down at the front of the hospital, all human life sick or well passes before your eyes.  I saw a little child standing on a mobile drip stand to which he was attached to, with his father pushing him about.  He seemed to be enjoying the ride.  Thin, pale patients wearing pyjamas and carrying sick bowls wandered down to buy a newspaper, and elderly people in wheelchairs were pushed to appointments by middle-aged sons and daughters.  One lady in a wheelchair was crying bitterly.

Each of these people have their own story to tell, and all I can do is applaud the seemingly ever-friendly and approachable staff of Addenbrooke’s Hospital who have the duty of looking after us all.  Some of these workers in Radiotherapy were voluntarily staying on 2 hours after they should have gone home, just so that myself and others before me could have our treatment.  It would have been soul-destroying to have to travel the 50 miles home again without being seen, and they knew it.

I’ve learned a few tips already:  Take music instead of an audio book to listen to, and take a thin blanket onto the scanner because it’s cold in there.  Be pleasant to the staff who go the extra mile, because they do not want a broken down scanner any more than you do.  Last but not least, I must be grateful I’m feeling so well, because by the look of it, there are many, many people who are not.

Above the main reception desk on the way out I took comfort yet again from the words that have been written there for years: ‘It’ll pass, whatever it is.’

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