In the end I found I had an additional session on Friday – to make up for one cancelled on 14 July (even for cancer treatment national holidays are sacrocanct). Now the five weeks are over. I thanked the radiologist who has supervised every session, telling him it was so reassuring to see a familiar face every day. He works with a series of young assistants, who – according to one of my drivers – are there to familiarise themselves with the whole range of radiotherapy equipment.
At my hospital the main machines used are three Varian 21EX Linear Accelerators. I remember the first time I entered the room, past incredibly thick walls to protect technicians from the beams, it was with some trepidation, but I soon got used to the collection of giant robots which performed smooth dance-like steps, first two coming forward to scan, then a reassembling before the red light came on and the machines circled smoothly round my couch and then back again. Nearly three hours in a taxi and less tha 15 minutes on the couch.
The most humbling part was to see other, clearly sicker, patients being wheeled past, and for me particularly poignant, the young women, pale and with scarves on their heads, having passed from chemeotherapy to radiotherapy. Not many smiled.