19 July - Man in the mask

To the Radiotherapy Department at Carlisle Infirmary for the first step to the actual treatment. This is the manufacture of the mask or mould that will hold my head in the correct position for the radiotherapy treatment.

I'm impressed by the efficiency. They are ready on the dot of the appointment. The nurse technician takes care to explain all the treatment I will receive as well as what they plan to do during this visit.

For making the mask I lie down on a hard bed and a neck rest is selected to make me comfortable. The mask starts off as something that looks a bit like a thin toilet seat with a cut-out at the front. There are studs round the edge of the "seat" that lock into the bed, and the hole in the middle has a coarse mesh thermoplastic material stretched over it.

The thermoplastic is softened in hot water and then it is placed over my head. The studs go in with a snap and the two nurses work quickly moulding the material to the shape of my head paying particular attention to my nose and ears. It is not an unpleasant sensation, like having a hot towel on your face.

After a few minutes the mould is starting to set and soon after that the job is done. The studs come out and I can sit up and see the finished result.

Then off for a blood test in preparation for a CT scan which will be done on Thursday. This, I am advised, is just part of the preparatory work and not a diagnostic scan so I don't need to worry about receiving more bad news after it.

That's it for today, so we catch a bus into Carlisle city centre for some shopping and lunch.