Meet the Radiotherapy Patient Whisperers at Rondebosch Memorial Hospital.

Neelum, Raheema, Jessica and Kulthum

I know I said I wasn't going to swamp you with a blow-by-blow account of my daily radiotherapy sessions at the GVI Oncology wing at Rondebosch Memorial Hospital. But today there was a lovely twist.

When I arrived at the Radiotherapy treatment centre, I was welcomed by Kulthum, the Lead Radiotherapist. The rest of the team stood in the corridor, smiling at me.

"I read your blog, Mrs Lewin," said Kulthum.

This caught me by surprise. I laughed and asked her how, within under 24 hours, they knew about the blog post I had written.  This was the power of sharing on the internet. Kulthum explained that one of her Facebook friends sent her the link to the post. By now the others had joined us and they were as excited to discuss the blog post.

"This is fascinating," I said. Now the world knows what you guys are up to here at the radiotherapy wing." You are being watched by the blog camera."

"We will talk about the nutrition after the treatment session," said Kulthum. "You can eat anything you want to eat while you are on treatment."

"Yes," chipped in Raheema. "You can eat whatever your heart desires. You can have a steak sandwich or..."

" And tell your husband, he doesn't have to worry about your eating in the lounge. We allow anything. You can even eat a Gatsby there," responded Neelam, just finishing Raheema's sentence. "He should've allowed you to have your hamburger."

A Gatsby is a filled super-sized sandwich that is a traditional Cape Flats meal. No Cape Town experience is complete without you having indulged in this large half-French loaf filled with slap chips, French polony, a smattering of lettuce leaves and a healthy soaking of free-flowing, spicy tomato sauce.  A Gatsby is meant to be a communal meal - unless of course you have a Gatsby-sized appetite!  If the radiotherapy department allows you to eat this cultural delight in the lounge, they are definitely promoting camaraderie.

These ladies were on a (Gatsby?)roll.  I was tinkled pink (excuse the pun).  I wonder if they studied the contents of the post? Gertrude, the one who had prepped me the day before, was quietly busy. She was probably used to these chatterboxes. I was getting ready to occupy my position on the treatment bed.

"And, your heart will be fine," said Kulthum.  "I see you wrote you were concerned about your heart. Remember the tattoos we made? Doctor marks out the treatment area and takes all the vital organs into account when the margins are determined."

These ladies knew all the details of the blog post I had written. Every issue I wrote about was woven into our conversation and responded to.  How cool was this!  Soon it was just me, the machines, the cameras and the soft music. The next minute the session was over and the group conversation continued:

"Did you buy the Maizena (the name of a corn starch brand). Just dab it on the breast and underarm area to help soothe the area. Put the powder in a sock so that it doesn't mess. No deodorant and only soft bras or sports support bras."

From left:Neelam,Raheema, Jessica and Kulthum. Gertrude is not in the picture.This is in the treatment room.

I thanked them and as Kulthum escorted me down the corridor, she said:

" I just want to put your mind at ease and explain the radiation process again. The radiation targets the DNA of bad and healthy cells. The bad cells can't recover, but the healthy cells will start growing again. You will get tired as the treatment continues, but this tiredness means your healthy cells are busy working hard and being replaced. So, healthy things are happening while you are getting more and more tired. And, we will talk more about the nutrition as time passes. Remember, we will be seeing one another for the next six weeks."

I left the hospital feeling quite rebellious. When I arrived home, I cut a super-sized slice of onion bread, coated it with enough butter to cover a whole Gatsby and drowned this with a cup of strong coffee. Tomorrow I will revert to the largely gluten-free eating regime again.


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