For the meeting with Dr Brada I was well prepared. I was seeing him with my friend, Sue, who had been with me during my initial collapse and she had been far from idle in the interim. She had undertaken loads of research, so we could really quiz Dr. Brada as far as possible on any possible options available. The internet was still in its youth but nonetheless Sue had trawled through mountains of pages and we had lined up questions on things that we had come across that we were hopeful might benefit me. Sue is a solicitor, incredibly articulate and not easily intimidated so I was confident we would find out whatever there was to discover.
The appointment was at The Royal Marsden, I should point out this was a private appointment; one of the many benefits from my employer was private medical cover. During this period, it proved invaluable as it meant I could seek further opinions without worry about the cost. It was also providing me with counselling for which I was very grateful. I fundamentally disapprove of private medical care but I’m afraid my principals had shot out of the window and were rapidly disappearing from view in the light of my current predicament.
So, Sue and I met up in London and trotted off to the Marsden to see what was in store this time. I can’t remember what I was feeling as we headed in. Inevitably I would have been hopeful of some new exciting news. I can’t help myself, it’s my nature. For me, hope springs eternal. I’m not sure whether this is a bad thing or not. It does mean I am regularly disappointed I suppose, as my hopes aren’t necessarily met. But I can’t change the way my head is wired any more than someone with the opposite outlook can. I have tried to change it. I’ve tried heading to appointments with a voice of doom playing, almost as an insurance, as though if I’m thinking the worst, the worst can’t happen. But that is a more recent trick (spoiler alert it makes not a sod of difference to what you will be told, that won’t change whatever head voodoo you try) back in those days I still bounced in expecting the best.
My memory of Dr Brada is of a neat, dapper man, which makes him sound rather like Hercule Poirot. And he was perfectly charming. Charming but not inclined to entertain our hopes of an exciting, hitherto unexplored option. Each question we asked about was adeptly batted away. Gamma Ray knife? Not suitable for my tumour. Stereotactic radio surgery?Not for me. Various other treatments were offered by us, all were dismissed, kindly but firmly. He had no truck with any of our nutritional plans. They were very firmly dismissed. In fact, the entire meeting had the air of dismissing some naughty but well-meaning students. “Go and have your radiotherapy treatment.” I was told. “Don’t delay, get on with it”.
And so I did. Sometime later, when everything was turned upside down I felt quite a strong degree of anger towards Dr. Brada but I think I have finally let that go. He wasn’t really to blame as he was not a surgical specialist I don’t think; his field was very much radiotherapy methods and on those I assume the information he gave was correct. And if he did fail to pass on information that might have helped me, I can’t imagine it would have been from malice. I imagine he may have assumed the neurosurgeons had gone through all surgery options before deciding my tumour was inoperable,so no, my ire is not really directed at him!
I returned to lovely, warm Dr. Jeffries, ready to start the process of radiotherapy. The treatment would be done at Addenbrookes as their equipment was superior in terms of how well directed it was and would be less likely to cause damage to the surrounding brain. I would be fitted for a mask and then the treatment itself would be every day for six weeks. This was potentially difficult given I live nearly two hours travel time from Cambridge, but the train line was just opening between Norwich and Cambridge so we thought we’d be able to manage. I think Addenbrookes said they’d schedule me in to allow for me to travel there. The treatment, once there, would only take a matter of minutes. There was a further small but surprisingly significant blow to be dealt. The radiotherapy would cause me to lose my hair, some of the loss would be permanent. I was shocked to discover tears pouring down my face. Why did I care about a stupid thing like hair loss? I don’t think I’m a terribly vain person, I’m certainly not highly groomed; if I get out of bed, manage to shower, dress and whack a bit of lippy on that’s a good day. But of course, it’s nothing to do with vanity though I’m not sure I understood that then. It’s the visible sign to the rest of the world and most importantly to yourself. The visible, inescapable sign that something’s wrong with you. That however much you may try to pretend that nothing’s changed, that life is still normal, It really isn’t.