Radiotherapy Treatment #2: A New Visualisation 

I get to wear my mask for the first time today as they zap my brain! I’m kinda excited….what a sicko. My Dad is coming with me. I think he might be excited too. 

I read a book when I was first diagnosed. It’s the thought that counts. By David Hamilton. It among a number of books and people, helped set my path and allow positivity into my life. 

I had started reading his second book. How your mind can heal your body. But I couldn’t get into it. Hamilton makes it clear from the get go that this is just his theory, he could be wrong and that there isn’t that much science behind it. I needed more at the time and so put it away. Since the surgery it has become a bit of a night-time read for me followed by an episode or two of Veep. 

Last night I saw a new visualisation. I don’t think Jabba the Hutt is going to cut it with these new lesions and I’ve been ‘seeing’ this for a while in my meditations, contemplations and general daydreams….but last night I heard music, I saw myself ‘in it’, and it felt more real. I hadn’t taken my full gamut of pain meds so I don’t think I was hallucinating either. 

*Cue Nina Simone Music*

  It’s a new dawn. 

  It’s a new day. 

  It’s a neeew life for me. 

And no, I am not taking inspiration from The Bacherlorette ad, although I sometimes wished I blogged about that show instead of my actual life…but I am strutting along some city street. There could be some slow motion action too. 

So I am dressed as a tarted-up scientist. Tight white lab coat, slick back hair, dark rimmed frames, Nana Merle’s diamond earrings, shiny lips, air-brushed skin, fabulous black heels. We have a photo in our study that is quite close to what I look like (minus the lab coat and frames). The photo was taken in a photo booth in Marylebone Station one cold winter morning as I needed it for a monthly rail pass I just bought. I took the remaining photos home to show Alex, cause I didn’t think it looked like me. He asked who it was, ’cause it certainly wasn’t the woman who left the house each morning’ and he wasn’t convinced it was the woman he had recently married. The photo travelled home with us because we always wonder who she was….I guess now we know. 

So I’m confidently strutting the streets in my fabulous get-up to get into my body (the lab)….. which is where all the glamour ends, reality begins and my actual visualisation starts.

When I was a bench scientist, my main role was to grow bucket loads of decidual endothetial cells in petri dishes. These cells line the many blood vessels that are found in the juncture between the uterus and the placenta during pregnancy (have I lost you…too much information??). 

The main problem growing these cells was that the petri dish could become contaminated with another cell type called fibroblasts. They are a type of connective tissue and they quickly became my arch nemesis. Overnight, the fibroblast could multiple and cover the whole dish leaving only a few endothelial cells left to replicate, rendering the sample useless for future experiments. 

One way to manage the growth of the fibroblasts was to lug a whole microscope into a laminar flow hood and then carefully suck out the dodgy cells with a long glass pippette. (OK, definately lost the non-scientists! Maybe the photo will help) 

 It meant that the right cells, the endothelial cells, had a chance to grow and fill the dish, ready to harvest and freeze for future experiments. 

So that’s what I’ve started imagining in my body. A glass suction pippette sucking out the various areas of ‘contamination’. 



Cycle 3 Day 2: Jabba The Hutt

A sense of calm returned this morning. 

During our early morning ocean swim my chest felt heavier and even more crack-ely. Obviously my immune system hard at work after yesterday’s top up of drug.

I sometimes use imagery to help to visualise my immune system working. Ian Gawler suggests you create a scenario that you can really believe in and make it your own. I read stories of Pac-Man eating breast cancer cells, or rocket ships flying around brain tumours firing at the mass.

I have fairly decent understanding of how the immune system works. However our knowledge is growing constantly and what I learnt at uni is probably now very much outdated, but that hasn’t stop me from coming up with my own unique scenario.

Don’t laugh, but I imagine Jabba the Hutt as a macrophage (And I’m talking about Jabba from the Phantom Menace not Return of the Jedi – irrelevant info but i needed to be specific). Macrophages are one of your white blood cells designed to identify and remove damaged cells. They contain a bleach like substance which is used to kill the damaged cell/foreign body. I vaguely remember it acting a bit like a kamikaze pilot and it dies as well (but can’t be sure). Science peeps – am I close?? Anyway back to my Jabba imagery… Jabba moves his way along and around the tumour gobbling up cancerous cells as he goes. When he gets to the top of the tumour there is a little explosion in his belly – he lets out a huge burp and moves on. Below I imagine the next Jabba lining up to start working his way up the tumour acting out the same scene. This continues over and over until I lose focus.

Vas told me yesterday that up to this point Alex hadn’t understood the Jabba reference. After seeing the recent scan he could understand it more, especially if this is what an inflammatory response looked like.jabbaSo I think it might be time to add Jabba back in to my daily routine. Can’t hurt.

Cycle 1 Day 6: The Many Versions of Me

I have had many images of the new me during mediation. This was the first time I recognized a new voice.

I felt like it was the ‘real me’. Her voice was calm and considered. Her tone was even, firm but not loud or angry. Her thoughts were logical, not negative or fearful. It was the perfect balance, peaceful and at ease. It was me.

Anoula 2.0 was a happy-go lucky version of my former self. She strutted along a garden path wearing a green dress with her short funky hair and bright red lipstick. I imagined this when I was without hair and still receiving the heavy doses of chemo. I can hear music playing and I feel the warmth of sunshine on my skin. I see her so clearly, even now.

This bright scene then gave way to an image of a primitive female emerging from a rock like egg covered in moss. I had short sliver grey hair and enormous eyes and pixie like ears. I felt like I wasn’t human, like a Japanese cartoon character or from Avatar (even though I have never seen the movie). It was misty and dark. And I was like a cave woman. It was fitting that I should see this when I did, as a few weeks later my scans showed that my treatment had stopped working and I would need to go back on the heavy chemo again. I see it as my subconscious mind telling me that I was going to need to get back to basics and have my survival instincts kick in again.

Version 3.0 has not been entirely clear to me yet. I have imagined a woman with althetic arms running down the beach, she is wearing a pink cap/visor but I cant see her face.

The voice today tells me to keep on looking for her. Which I plan to do.