27th April 2020
It’s my first visit to the Oncology centre in Cheltenham General Hospital.
Around 20 minutes drive from home. It’s good to get out on the road during the lockdown
I’m being fitted with my mask, which will be used for all the radiotherapy sessions. Met in the reception by a very amiable and likeable chap – Liam. He explains the process to me.
And it’s amazing!..
Today’s session is purely mechanical and analytical. Preparing for the treatment. There’s a CAT scanner which today is just being used for measurement analysis (not diagnosis), a steel bed which is the same dimensions as used for the actual radio LINAC treatment and a very special perforated polymer sheet.
The polymer sheet is soaking in warm water and Liam positions me flat on my back, with between a headrest and what I’d describe as a bum stop. So that fixes my line.
The the pliable polymer sheet is places over my head and shoulders and still being pliable, is fixed by clips to the steel bed. So that will be my X and Y position for all future scans.
But now comes the magic – I have to lay perfectly still for around 15 minutes or so. In this time, as the polymer is cooling, it shrinks completely tight against my head and neck. A bit like vacuum forming, but without the vacuum suction.
Now the radiologist team can place marks on the mask, line it with lasers (these can be seen in the photo) so that I’m perfectly positioned and check against this reference scan, throughout the 30 sessions of radiology that I’ll have.
As the mask will be a companion of mine throughout and a close a copy as of me as anyone could see, it needed a name.
So please let me introduce…
Big Manny – the Mask