Return to the Pink Zone

I was back in the Pink Zone for my Radiotherapy planning. Despite the long instructions in the letter for finding radiotherapy I was flummoxed when I found myself back in the familiar Oncology Outpatients. As it is on floor minus 2 and has a low ceiling I assumed this area was a dead end; unfortunate choice of words perhaps…

Luckily a lady in grey ( one of the health care assistants who pop up helpfully everywhere ) asked if I was lost and took me through a door that hadn’t been there before. Then she asked if I wanted Chesil, Furzey or Varian. I had no idea what she was talking about so produced my appointment letter ( always take your hospital letter with you ) and she took me to reception. I was soon given a gown and taken to get changed in a cubicle with the fatal words ‘Just come back to reception when you are ready’ assuming you are going to remember the way back…

I did find my way back and was soon in a room having a CT scan and lots of measurements taken. They give you four tiny tattoos as guide lines, apologising that they will be permanent. I am hardly likely to worry about that when I have a long scar and no breast, but at least they are acknowledging you still own your body. I asked for a butterfly tattoo, but they said they don’t have the artistic skills.

When I arrived for the start of my fifteen daily treatments ( weekends not included ) a couple of weeks later, I smugly assumed I knew where I was going, but at reception she asked if I was Chesil, Furzey or Varian.  No idea, but she soon returned with the answer. I had to find Varian 2 and was directed to turn and follow and turn down several corridors. Every time you go through a double door a whole new hospital seems to unfold before your eyes…

Chesil and Furzey are local place names, but who, what or where was Varian? Lord Varian, the famous Dorset benefactor or Planet Varian from Star Trek… ‘Captain, the Varians are attacking.’

Varian is the manufacturer of the machines under which we patients lie in treatment rooms Varian 1 and 2. We arrive at the pleasant Varian waiting room from where we are called to the sub waiting room on the intercom. There we change into the gowns with three armholes which we are allowed to keep for all our sessions. From here you can see the lighted red warning signs when the radioactivity is active and staff must leave. The radiologist soon comes to fetch you and take you round the curving corridor. The actual zapping with rays is brief, most of the time is spent adjusting you to exactly the right position with the two radiologists talking numbers and degrees. They take a three year degree to learn all this. The weird grey machine makes various beeps and noises, but all we have to do is keep our arms raised holding on to the bars and stay completely still. When out of the room the staff are watching you on closed circuit TV and you can wave to them if there is a problem… All the staff are very friendly and reassuring.

 After a few sessions I thought I was getting the hang of the routine; three buzzes and staff must leave the room. I have three zaps from three different directions and in between, the Great Varian grinds and moves. A long buzzy beep is the actual dose of rays. One time it had just started when the room lights suddenly came on. Over the intercom a voice said ‘Don’t worry, we have an interlock, we just have to wait five minutes before we can restart.’

This was definitely out of Star Trek… ‘Captain we have an interlock with the Varian ship.’  I was about to go through a time shift or into another dimension. After what seemed like twenty minutes the voice said ‘Only two more minutes to go.’ The staff returned and so did normality.

All my appointments have been quite early and very specific times. 9.06am, 9.18am 9.03. I have usually been called in on time or early, but one morning I was sitting by myself, no one on the reception desk and the screen said Varian Two On Time.  Time passed, other patients came in and we compared appointment times. I was first, what was going on? After the interlock incident of the day before I wondered if the machine had broken down, but why had no one come to tell us? Had Varian Two taken all the staff through a time shift or zapped them all with a mega dose of radiation… more time passed and at last I was called. The explanation was more prosaic than my imaginings. They were busy, short staffed and had no time to update the screen in the waiting room.

Strangely, my trips down the corridors have got shorter with familiarity.  The route is lined with paintings and the area is bright and pleasant. The shiny wooden floor squeaks when anyone walks, it is not just my new shoes.  A look at the health ap on my phone shows I have walked less than a kilometre from the hospital main entrance and back again, not the miles it seemed.

Some of the questions I have been tempted to ask as a writer, but haven’t yet…

Do you get many patients who panic?’

‘Has anyone accidentally been given a mega dose or forgotten about?’

‘Have you ever had a rogue/insane radiologist who tampered with the machine?’

As a patient I don’t think I will ask as they are all very professional and sane and nice…

25 thoughts on “Return to the Pink Zone

  1. I am always amazed at how difficult it is to navigate through a hospital. Glad to hear you now know how to get to where you are going.

    best of luck with the treatments, and hopefully the side effects aren’t too bad…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I spent 22 years of my life going to various familiar hospitals with ambulance patients. But even up to the last day in that job, I could still get lost along corridors.
    Good to see you keeping your sense of humour with regular treatments. You undoubtedly inspire others who are in the same situation.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love this, Janet but pleased it was you rather than me. 😀 It does make you wonder if hospitals were designed by frustrated authors getting distracted as they tried to incorporate a plot twist. x

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I get turned around in hospitals … perhaps it has something to do with the energy in them … patients in all sorts of high-stress situations, staff dealing with all sorts of high-stress situations. Sometimes it feels like I can almost see all that stuck energy coming out from the walls.
    Glad to hear you’re cruising along, (relatively speaking:) ) with the treatments now. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I do ask the questions that seem interesting to me during my skin cancer screenings and surgical procedures but they are often suspiciously dodged even though they clearly know the answers. What is the record for MOHs removals before the patient was cleared? What percentage of screenings detect a melanoma? And so on.

    Liked by 1 person

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