Back in 2020 I had a challenge and that was to be at The QE Cancer Centre in Birmingham every day at 7.30am for 32 days. This is the story of the daily journey and the scenes along the way.
It was late January 2020 just before the Pandemic. 8 years before I’d had surgery to remove my prostate and some cancer cells, then the cancer weaved its way back and landed on my lymph node, a single one, 16 mm in size.
So began the journey from Bewdley to the QE Cancer Centre. It was an early start at 5.30 am every day from home. First onto the London train from Kidderminster that stopped at Snow Hill. Onwards then, across the road, past St Phillips and the Plane trees, often dripping with ice, then down on to New Street and Grand Central to catch the Hereford train that stopped near the hospital. It was always cold and dark along the way, starkly there were many homeless men and women all with their own territories, it was the same every day, the same faces, wizened and tortured by the cold, after a while all became familiar and then as the days went by, there was the occasional nod of acquaintance, a hello, how humbling it was.
One morning though, some very sad news filtered through, that someone died over night. Yet his sleeping bag and cardboard shelter was still there, homeless from being homeless, running out of time, one last time. Why do we allow this to be in our land of prosperity so often without understanding or compassion?
Onwards then to get the 7.10 from New Street, a quick coffee at Pret plus a glass of filtered water freely supplied, then down to platform 10, but first a quick lieu stop before boarding. Relief! Then there was a half mile trek from University station to the Heritage Centre and the cancer ward.
It was later now, but still dull and dark. Some days, from the birch lined way, came the Robins early dawn trill. Occasional moments then to lift the spirit. Then, wow, made it into the ward !! First, stop into the toilet behind the entrance door for instant relief.
Onwards then to the ward with an hour to wait for the Tomotherapy machine (see image and description). Before admittance to this high-tech machine, you have to have a full bladder. It becomes a balancing act with continued consumption of free filtered water whilst resisting the urge to break away for relief. If you’re lucky, and when the call comes, you need to be oven ready! Then, in the centre, there are ten wards and your’s is the one designed specifically to match your needs.
So there you sit with maybe 4 patients all sitting on plastic chairs, Bill with his legs apart, hands on knees, hat perched neatly on top, not saying much, with his wife Gladys complete with bag and flask plus her knitting which became a magnificent scarf after the 30th day. Little conversation though, only one that seemed a daily exchange; “we got here really quickly today, we come all the way from Solihull”, adding that, “all the traffic lights were on green today”.
Then there was another, who sat there just staring at the blank wall, not talking to anyone, obviously petrified of what was about to happen.
Then there was Calvin, a young 47-year-old taxi driver (prostate cancer is very prevalent in young men from the Afro Caribbean community). He was nervous (as we all were) up and down like a yo-yo trying to get the balance right often failing then having to wait another two hours. After the treatment we often chatted (Never before, but always after) He was a Blues supporter and me Villa through and through, no matter about that, we’ve subsequently become good friends out of our adversity. He’s good now, me too, how fortunate to be treated at the QE. in Birmingham, the best there can be.
Learn more about Tomotherapy by watching this video:
Find out more advantages of TomoTherapy here: