I discovered recently that Harry Hill was another of the ranks of disillusioned potential medics - Keats, Chekhov and now Harry. Disappointed to find the career wasn't the all-action role he had envisaged and then a lukewarm response from a boss to his decisions about specialisation led to a career in comedy.
After this year perhaps a spell as a comedian would have helped me too. The light is at last glimmering at the end of the tunnel. I am nearly through radiotherapy and have stopped struggling into work every day. I tried to restrict myself to two days a week. But it isn't easy.
The NHS doesn't really have a dimmer switch. After all I still get five days of e-mails and post and the days I work are full on. Having more time to reflect helps - my semi-detached state has enabled me to prioritise where I focus 'on re-entry', so to speak. I am looking forward to implementing hospital by day, the challenges of reconfiguration and addressing consultant productivity.
It is truly strange being on the receiving end of a treatment I have been prescribing for others for two decades. As a doctor I have always thought of radiotherapy as an effective treatment that offers the prospect of cure, or a greater chance of cure, to many of my patients and effective palliation for many others.
This is, of course, true. I am sorry to say that I didn't give as much thought as I should to what it must feel like actually going through the treatment itself. Indeed an anxious patient of mine was freaked out a few months ago when the machine broke down part-way through her treatment and I was not as empathetic as I should have been, thinking why do these things always happen to anxious patients.
Fear versus logic
Lying in a large room listening to the intimidating metallic whir of a linear accelerator while trying not to move - and hardly breathe - for 40 seconds or so is surreal. There is a real sense of isolation in having a big machine 'shone' at you. When you receive chemo somebody inserts a drip and then sits with you as they push the drug in through a syringe or attach you to a machine that delivers the drug over a predetermined period. And they check on you from time to time. Although the staff aren't going through it with you they are able to communicate while it is happening, and that is oddly reassuring.
The difference with radiotherapy is that staff can't risk being exposed to the scatter of radiation, which will inevitably ricochet around the room. So once you are set-up in a precise position there is a bleep rather like the noise when you put on your house alarm and have to get out of the door. The door is closed at the entry to the concrete and lead maze in which the machine sits. Then there is a pause. I take a deep breath, shut my eyes, try to hold my breath and we're off.
Initially I had a sense I was being cooked, in small daily doses. Not helped by the fact that your skin gradually turns pink and becomes sensitive. For the first few days I, the patient, had to battle with myself, the doctor, to reinforce the intellectual arguments in favour of my treatment and suppress the irrational fear and aversion.
Four weeks on I am now over that and simply count down the days as though I were accruing points towards a qualification. After 33 attendances I will be a fully paid up member of the post-mastectomy generation who have been able to substitute disfiguring surgery with more conservative surgery and an effective, if alienating, treatment.
Soon I can put radiotherapy and my emotional reaction to it behind me and enjoy Harry Hill's advice: 'My auntie used to say, what you can't see won't hurt you. She died of radiation poisoning'.