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GREAT BIG TATTOO ADVENTURE
Leitso and Jeni live in Puy de Dome, France. He was 63 when he was diagnosed on
May 5, 2009. His initial PSA was 286.0 ng/ml, his Gleason Score was 8 and he was
staged T4. His story
is filled with humour and humanity and here he tells of his experience in getting
his first tattoo as aiming points for his EBRT (External Beam Radiation Treatment).
Today I got a tattoo!
The drive to Montlucon, the big city, was wet
and foggy like a London summer's day. When it is like that you can never find
a parking place. We left plenty of time to get to the appointment and despite
having to park near the cemetery, we got to the reception desk 10 minutes early
at 10 to 11:00. I passed over my appointment card and we were asked to wait in
the waiting room adjacent. There were three other men waiting, who bid us "Bonjour!"
I had a thought that it was going to be a long wait. We had just found two comfortable
chairs to sit on and I had picked up a magazine to read when a man in a white
coat came into the room and said " M'sieur Leitso" reading it from a card in his
hand. Surprised I said "Oui" and stood up looking around questioningly at the
other men. The man in the white coat asked me to come with him. I put the magazine
down on the table and gave Jeni my bandolero to hold for me, picked up my large
bag of films and followed him out of the room. It wasn't a long wait at all and
my spirits were lifted.
We went down the hall and through a large door
with a big yellow and black radiation symbol. There in the middle of the room
was a familiar sight, a long narrow conveyor belt on an adjustable table and just
next to it a large machine with a hole in it like a big doughnut where I knew
the conveyor belt would pass me through. It was a Cat Scanner, smaller than an
MRI scanner overall but with a bigger, but shorter length hole in the middle.
I smiled to myself, this would be easy. No fear of claustrophobia with this one.
man in the white coat had disappeared and came back with a digital camera. He
asked me to strip off my shirt and tee shirt and sit on the chair by the wall.
Walking up quite close to me he pointed the camera at me, took a shot and said
that this was so there would be no mistake identifying me.
That was good,
I thought, and my mind went back to last year when there was a scandal at a hospital
in Lille, I think, where there had been a mix-up and several people had been given
the wrong treatment.
I was asked to lie on the table conveyor and a knee
rest was put under my legs. Two other men in white coats came into the room and
they taped little pieces of lead on my arms and chest which corresponded to two
laser lines from the ceiling forming a cross hairs on my body. Then followed the
kind of "dance of the scanners";- back and forth through the hole a few times
at varying speeds and then a rest to "fire up" the large rotating scanning heads
which are just visible through a narrow window in the middle of the dough-nut
hole, then the scan its-self.
After the performance I was left to baste
in the scanner for what seemed a long time and eventually the conveyor transported
me out of the hole and stopped clear of the machine. The three men surrounded
me and began to make marks on my chest with felt tipped pens checking and cross
checking with each other. This was quite nouvelle for me but I could see on the
men's faces that they had done this hundreds of times and showed no excitement,
just the professional calm of men who knew their jobs.
My chest was just
beginning to look like the Mayan Laylines, when the Oncologist, Dr. Tao walked
in with a young female nurse.
"Hello" he said, and asked me how I was.
He always has a big smile, even when giving me bad news. He is of Chinese decent
from the Iles de Maurice and wears happy round horn-rimmed glasses.
I replied. The pleasure of seeing a familiar face showing on mine. "It is very
interesting" I added.
He asked if I was Finnish, strange I thought, as
he knew that already as we had talked about it on several occasions before. Turning
his head to the young nurse he asked if there were lots of mosquitoes in Finland.
I nearly burst out laughing, realizing that the young nurse was probably going
to Finland and didn't believe that Finland had mosquitoes.
With a broad
grin I said "O, oui il ya boucoup là-bas". The nurse looked a bit crest-fallen
and Dr. Tao patted me on the shoulder, smiled with a twinkle and said "I will
see you a bit later" and rushed out with his white gown flapping the nurse following
in his wake. That small episode was wonderfully warm and made me feel part of
the "family" instead of just another old patient passing through on his way to
the cemetery. They are very good at that at St François Clinic where I have my
treatment. They are clever people.
The men in white immediately filled
the gap left by Dr. Tao and the nurse, and one man said to me that there was just
the tattoo left to do and picked up an needle and ink to tattoo three blue dots
on my chest to indelibly mark the axes for the radiation gun to aim. I have 10
sessions of radiation treatment on a vertebra where a cancer metastatic lesion
has set up home and is threatening to invade the central nerve column, plus a
new tattoo, my first for all!
They have made great inroads into radiation
treatment in recent years (I hope!) and it is much less dangerous or damaging
as the radiation rates have been found to be just as effective at a much lower
dose. Plus, the careful precise delivery has been refined with the use of scanners
and the procedure I had just been through!
No doubt next Monday I will
get "zapped with a smile".