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  • Writer's pictureA. Murphy

The Mask

Updated: Feb 18, 2020

Strangely enough life remained fairly normal after receiving such big news. I went to work, I walked my dogs, I avoided writing when I knew that's what I should be doing. It did not last long though. My doctors wanted to start my treatment as soon as possible. I did too for that matter, it's not something you want to leave to see what happens.

I was scheduled to have radiotherapy treatment first, I believe it was to address the remaining piece of tumour still in my head, but I cannot be sure.

Radiotherapy consists of lying still on a table whilst radiation is fired at you. Though it sounds like a scary experience it truly isn't. They do not aim blindly either. The machine through which the radiation is fired moves so that the beam is in the exact shape they need it to be. You can't even feel it.

Yet before I could start any of this, I had to prepare. This meant I had to have a mask made. I had been given a DVD that explained it all. When on the radiotherapy table they need you to be perfectly still, head and shoulders especially. Even a millimetre of movement could mean having to stop the process and readjust. So I had to have a mask made to keep me motionless.

It is made of a plastic sheet that once warmed in water becomes extremely flexible. I had come across this kind of plastic before as a cosplayer and a massive fan of Halloween. (It is quite funny when you are the only person in the house in a costume and you don't even have plans to go out for the evening.) Once again I was with my mum for the appointment. I lay on a table and told to relax, which I tried desperately to do. I remember clearly the women making my mask trying to get my shoulders to relax just a little bit more. As someone who has been a competitive swimmer since the age of eight, I can tell you this wasn't easy. My shoulders could only relax so much. They kept pushing them down but they would simply bounce back up again. Took a little while before they gave up.

The sheet was then placed over my head and shoulders. There were holes for my nose and mouth but unfortunately none for my eyes, they would be added later. It is very strange to be lying on a table, wearing a hospital gown (under which I only had my underwear), in a room full of people that you cannot see. It only lasted a few minutes while the plastic cooled. They even covered it in ice packs to help it along. After a short while I had a mask perfectly fitted to my face.

It looked terrifying.

The mask was not all I needed to start radiotherapy though. There were still measurements to be taken, for which I laid on a table similar to the one they would be using during the radiotherapy. They also gave me tattoos! Not intricate works of art I'm sad to say, but rather tiny dots on the front and sides of my hips that will allow them to shift me into just the right place. I had to be in the exact same position each time so that the radiation hit the exact same spot each time. They are so small they hardly even count as tattoos, but I have a plan. Once I'm able I am going to have those three little dots turned into stars. 'Then it's Orion's Belt, see?' I said to my parents. Apparently they did not find it as funny as I did.

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Feb 16, 2020

aah! One absolutely terrifying mask. One question. Did they let you keep it? Will it be part of your Halloween get up. Talking about get up, make me smile thinking of your strong shoulders bouncing back up !

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