In most places that offer external beam radiotherapy the patient receives tiny tattoos so that the technician can accurately line up the machine using its laser crosshairs to hit the internal target area with extreme precision. At my hospital, instead of tattoos, I received felt-tip marks which were then covered with clear sticky tape and instructions not to bathe or shower for fear of them coming off. That was on January 19th. Because the machine had been shut down for routine maintenance for two days a couple of weeks earlier, my showerless period was effectively extended by five days – the two day closure, a weekend plus a bank holiday Monday.
Just as this year, in 2012 Monday 27th Feb was Clean Monday which is a bank holiday in Greece. My therapy therefore was due to resume on Tuesday 28th. I still had two sessions of external beam radiotherapy remaining, but I also had two sessions of brachytherapy to face as well and these I had been unaware of until almost the final week.
I made the long journey from home to Thessaloniki on Clean Monday and attended my usual radiotherapy sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday. Wednesday was an extra-special day! Not only was it 29th February but I was also permitted my first shower in six weeks. I had two, one straight after the other and then went out for some retail therapy. I found a small shop that sold handmade glass items and bought this tiny pomegranate for myself (a potent good luck symbol in Greece) plus a tiny glass house for my hostess Vicky. The lip of the bottle in this photograph is 22mm diameter and the silver leaf is 30mm tip to tip. There is also a tiny silver calyx. If I am anxious this travels with me in my luggage as a symbol of home.
I also had a new room-mate this week, a young Iranian asylum-seeker. He had been spirited out of Iran by local activists and crossed the land border from Turkey into Greece without papers. He had been held in prison for three months in Alexandroupoli and had just been released to allow him to put in his asylum claim in Thessaloniki. Vicky and her local activist friends were doing all they could to help him.
I had Thursday off! No hospital appointments at all and so I showed my room mate the ancient city walls and the fortress at eptapirgiou. It was a good distraction for both of us, neither of us had had quite this much freedom for a long time and both of us still had daunting journeys to face.
Brachytherapy, in case you don't know, is a cancer treatment which involves placing a radioactive source inside the body, and no matter how your doctors try to reassure you, you can't help but feel you are about to become some kind of doll's house Chernobyl. The fact that you are completely alone, shut inside what can only be described as a bunker does little to dissuade this thought. The treatment lasts only 320 seconds and the following week I would make the whole journey again just for that.
Time is running out for President Trump.