Soup to base… an exclusive recipe for radiotherapy

September 14, 2010 at 12:58 pm (Uncategorized)

I’ve been tardy in my posting. I was waiting for the radiotherapy to start so that I’d have some stuff to talk about but in the waiting I’ve gotten out of the habit of sending postcards from the cancer trip. I’ll try to be better.

I’ve been pondering cancer in general and my experiences in particular and do have a bit to talk about. I thought I’d begin with the sometimes disempowering experience of being a cancer patient. I read some stuff in the paper today about Jim Stynes and his thoughts on putting yourself in the know, but getting your head around much of what goes on in hospitals and clinics is really uncharted territory for unseasoned travelers.

Much has been written by post-modern philosophers about hegemony, the power of language and the exclusivity of discourse. The theory goes that particular knowledges (eg., medicine) create specialised language or exclusive jargon that, in essence, provides a level of power to the owners of that language while disempowering those who are not in on it. To me this is writ large in the radiotherapy clinic. I don’t necessarily believe that the speakers of this language employ it in order to maintain their exclusivity, sending themselves on some kind of power trip… or ‘journey’. I think they’re too kind for that, but the effect is that you really don’t know what they’re talking about even though they’re talking about you.

“How’s the PRP on that?”

“Hmm, 92.5ish supe to base”.

The use of exclusive language coupled with the fact that you’re lying semi-naked on a bench surrounded by gigantic machinery that you know will burn you makes for a kinda disempowering experience. Oh, and while in this state you’re also being watched on camera. I go stupid and say “thank you” when they tell me they’re just going to bend my arm, or move my hips, or leave the room. It’s because they’re actually speaking to me in English… and powerless person that I am, I’m grateful.

Not that I’m not grateful. I am. I’m grateful that I have a superior GP, I’m grateful that the surgeons and oncologists and radiologists all have highly specialised talents and knowledge, I’m grateful for the humanity of nurses, I’m grateful for the love and support of my husband and family and friends, I’m grateful that I’m not going to die of cancer. I just wish I understood what the fuck they’re talking about.

Perhaps I’ll work it out eventually.



  1. shula said,

    So I take it that you’ve started?

    Does this mean that we are doing yoga together.

    Could be a good time. I just got the ducks out of the yoga room….

  2. shula said,

    ps. wtf DOES supe to base mean? Did you find out?

  3. Kathy said,

    Hey Jacinta,
    Glad you are back blogging and hope you’re not too sore following treatment. Truly lovey our writing.
    Keep on keeping on,
    Luv Ya

  4. Kathy said,

    should read love your – spaced out obviously

  5. Paddy said,

    You’ll never work it out Jacinta – I spend my life talking and writing in acronyms and geoscience speak and am having to continually edit both my talk and my text as I realise that even I don’t understand what I’m saying…just keep on grinning and saying “thank you”, stay positive and invent a few acronyms of your own to throw back at them occasionally, just to let them know the power is not all one-sided!
    Hugs and kisses

    • jacinta said,

      Thanks Paddikins. POWs from the GOS (pearls of wisdom from the grand ole sage). I know you’re not old but I needed a vowel. XO

  6. Jen Harbottle said,

    Hi Jacinta

    I am Jason Todd (Don’s colleague)’s wife.

    I have read your blog today and laughed and cried! Good luck on your trip. You have an amazing gift for writing – thank you for sharing your story.


    • jacinta said,

      Thanks Jen. I hear you’re on a trip of your own on the sub-continent! Lucky duck. Is all the media attention on the games a beat up?

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