Wednesday, 1 November 2017

It was special to be involved in a key moment in the development of The Christie’s revolutionary MR linac - Mike Thorpe

Mike Thorpe, Christie patient

Mike Thorpe
I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in February 2014 at North Manchester General Hospital and my treatment was a two year course of hormone therapy and radiotherapy at The Christie. 

The radiotherapy was every weekday for four weeks during July. I was invited to take part in a radiotherapy clinical trial so my treatment took place in the research facility known as R1, the radiographers looking after me for those four weeks were Julie, Laura, Michelle and Sheena.

Being diagnosed with cancer had knocked me sideways and that month of radiotherapy was the most intense month of my life. I was scared and radiotherapy was a high-tech world that I didn't recognise and didn't realise existed. 

I had 20 days of treatment and I was very focused so I didn't have many casual chats with my team but every one of them has a special place in my heart and I can never thank them enough.

I’ve heard people talk about finishing treatment and saying it's like falling off a cliff, it is! 

After radiotherapy every weekday for four weeks, I felt like I was suddenly on my own (despite still needing hormone implants to be fitted every three months) with time to think about the past six months and I also wanted something to fill the void.

During the radiotherapy, I'd picked up a flyer for a support group so I made a call and joined. It was the Effects of Pelvic Radiation Support Group and I still attend now. After attending a couple of meetings, one of the organisers, Sue Taylor suggested I think about joining The Christie's Patient and Carers Reference Group (PRG) so I did. That was the first step on a long road of user involvement and I'm still a member of the PRG.

Sue also suggested that I look at the Macmillan cancer voices website for other opportunities. Not long after that, I was encouraged to attend a Macmillan workshop in London, soon to be followed by another one in Birmingham and then Newcastle for the Independent Cancer Taskforce. 

Along the way, I joined the Macmillan Cancer Improvement Partnership which has been working in the city of Manchester and later became involved with Greater Manchester Cancer which drives cancer provision across the region. 

Being involved with Greater Manchester Cancer led to me working with the Cancer Vanguard which aims to develop a new model of cancer care and treatment throughout the country.

I’m also involved in the Virtual MDT (Multidisciplinary Team) and one of the original members of CRUK's Patient Sounding Board. There are numerous other projects I've been involved with as well.

At the end of July 2017, I was discharged from The Christie by Clinical Nurse Specialist Helen Johnson. Helen is involved in some of the projects I've been participating in.

It was through Helen that I was invited to be involved in marking a key moment in the development of a new era in radiotherapy research. The Christie was looking for a radiotherapy patient to pick a rose from The Christie garden to be used as the first item to be scanned by the hospital’s new MR-linac, a revolutionary multi million pound radiotherapy machine with its own MR scanner, one of only seven in the world. 

Sheena and Mike at the MR-linac
Now as it turns out, the MR-linac has been installed in the R1 radiotherapy suite where I was treated which made it even more special for me. 

One thing about radiotherapy is you rarely go back for more, so patients rarely get to meet the teams who treated them again. The Christie made it really special for me by inviting one of the team of radiotherapists who had treated me originally, Sheena, to be there when I picked the rose and placed it in the MR-linac for scanning. It was a real privilege.

I’m very grateful to have been given the opportunity to be involved in so much user involvement. And I will always have an enduring affection for The Christie and its staff.

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