Exhausting travel times and a lack of inclusion around his cancer treatment left Keith feeling like ‘a number.’ But his positive experience of radiotherapy also brought a lot of gratitude. Here, he tells Radiotherapy UK about his cancer story.
Keith is 56, and lives in Eastbourne. He was diagnosed with treatable Non-hodgkin’s Lymphoma two years ago. A heart X-ray showed a tumour in his chest cavity and he underwent chemotherapy, and 18 sessions of radiotherapy, during the pandemic.
It made me feel like a number
Keith explained: “Everything I say, I want people to understand that the backdrop is that I am grateful. I have huge gratitude for the treatment I had and everyone that helped me. I really do.
“But I am a curious person, and I never felt included in my treatment. I wanted to see the scan results. I wanted to see the tumour because I’d never really seen it.
“If you have a burn or a bump you can see it, but with a tumour I felt like I had an alien inside me. I sometimes felt people didn’t believe me when I said I had cancer, so I wanted to see it for myself, to see conclusive evidence and put it in context. When you see it on TV people are shown their scans, but I didn’t feel I had a chance to expand on what was happening to me or ask a question because everyone was so busy.
“I asked if I could take a photo of the machine and they said I couldn’t because there wasn’t time. I didn’t want to complain or hold anything up but it made me feel like a number.”
Seven-hour round trip
Due to his heart condition, Keith was advised to go for radiotherapy treatment at a hospital in London, where he could use a breathing technique – Deep Inspiration Breath Hold – to protect his heart as much as possible. He was offered patient transport services through the NHS.
Keith said: “It was a seven-hour round trip every day and it was a nightmare. Because of Brexit, the company was short of drivers and so transport would often be very late. I felt so stressed and so anxious. Often, I’d just sit in silence for seven hours because I was so upset. There was the stress of travelling to treatment and the stress of having cancer.
“The treatment itself was fine – so much better than chemotherapy – like something out of Goldfinger really! Touch wood I don’t think I have had late effects, but I have other conditions so sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint what is causing what.”
Photo on home page posed by model, with thanks to Ingela Skullman on Pixabay.