Tired And Sick

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In the first week I have five radiotherapy sessions and it’s all going well until I catch a cold. For a few days I can’t breathe through my nose, so I have a real problem breathing at all with that mask on. Somehow, I struggle through these sessions and draw breath through my mouth with the distinct impression of being throttled into suffocation throughout the therapy. During one session with a lack of air, I feel dizzy. But I deal with the situation as calm as I can. When the mask is released from my head, I’m slow to move and manage to open my eyes as I take a deep gasp of air.

Fortunately, the cold clears up after a few days and my breathing during treatment begins to ease. The end of the next week sees me at radiotherapy session number ten and the effect of the treatment creeps up on me. I wake tired, any movement exhausts me and I begin to vomit. It isn’t just convulsing. The sickness is quite violent.

The tube journeys into hospital become difficult and I tend to sit down with my head in my hands. I try not to puke in the carriage. It’s a relief after about an hour on the train when I get to South Kensington so I can suck in cold air during the walk to hospital. I listen to the music of Where Eagles Dare on my walk down Onslow Square to the hospital in order to steel myself for what I’m about to receive.

As I turn right into Fulham Road, I cross the road just before the hospital. There is a disused green wooden doorway with obscured glass panels on the corner of Stewart’s Grove and Fulham Road. This doorway is a sacrosanct place for me. It is the point I try to reach without being sick in the street. I’m aware the people walking on by are normal and I’m not. And, from the corner of my eye, I notice the stares one morning from a businessman while I’m on my hands and knees in a gutter while retching into a drain when I never made it there. But this doorway is where I pause and often vomit in relative privacy. Sometimes I have good days and just cough and spit. But most times I lean against the marble surround, wait for the wave of nausea to hit me and let it out. After several minutes, I wipe my face, compose myself, raise my defences and go into hospital for the next radiotherapy session.

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