Location: Manning Valley/Hastings River
Date: February 2012

February 18, 2012. Back home from spending 4 days at the Rotary Lodge in the grounds of Port Macquarie hospital, North Coast NSW, 3 of them compliments of the house. Following the major surgery on my mouth/neck cancer last month in Sydney at Royal Prince Alfred, I've been assigned follow-up radiotherapy at Port Macquarie. The doc initially scheduled me for a regular 6-week, 5-day a week session and planted a feeding tube in my stomach for starters (late January). But more recently he asked if I was confident of getting through the complete radiotherapy session as planned and I said I wasn't. I'd heard too many stories and anecdotes from every Tom, Dick and Harry that frightened the daylights out of me. So he frightened me a little more by telling me if the cancer returned I'd be a dead man. Okay... so what was I supposed to do about that? He was asking me to predict the outcome of the therapy session and I couldn't give him an answer. I had no idea whether the pain would be too intense for me to handle or not. It was an unknown quantity, made all the more unknown by the fact that the radiation would be targeted at my neck, producing intense feelings of sunburn and sore throat which would make swallowing extremely difficult.

So the doc relented and put me onto an alternative schedule called "quads", 4 radiotherapy sessions over 2 days, then a break of 4 weeks until the next lot of "quads". After that? I'm not sure. Anyway, my first set of "quads", plus a bit of this and that from my dietician/nutritionist and my speech therapist, I'm back home in Taree. So far, I'm not feeling any side-effects from the radiation but the nurses say it's early days yet. And my dietician says I can count on six months before I'm fully recovered from this ordeal. However, I have improved in general well-being, strength, attitude and appetite (even though I'm still on soft foods) over the last few days. No sore throat yet.

I didn't do any scenic shots of Port Macquarie while I was there... too preoccupied with things medical... maybe I will next month. In pic 5 you'll see all my liquid food piled up on the kitchen bench - free from my dietician. Most of it came home with me in the back of the Ute. Maybe my dietician likes me or something. At one stage the hospital was visited by the rescue helicopter which I shot with the little compact Fuji. It doesn't have an eye viewfinder and I couldn't see the chopper clearly in the LCD screen (it's size), so I cropped one of the pics for you. That thing was just 100 yards or so from my window. The shot was taken from the BBQ deck of the lodge just a few doors down from my room. All rather jolly, really... except that one bloke invited me to a chicken and beer BBQ and I had to decline because I couldn't eat solid foods! Dammit.

There's a couple of shots of the radiation machine there, with my tailor-made mask sitting on it. That was made/molded last month, and is designed to fit my head perfectly, and bolt to the frame of the bed, so that the radiation targets exactly the same areas each time I undergo the therapy. It's made of a open-weave plastic. Click here for the photo album.


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