My first thoughts are of a Sanisette, a time machine, or the Orgasmatron from Sleeper. The nurse slides the door open and I step in to familiarise myself. The cabin isn’t bigger on the inside. It is seven-sided, and each side has six floor-to-ceiling UV tubular light bulbs. She shuts me in to check that I don’t get the screaming hab-dabs in the small space. (I don’t.) There are a number of handrails at different heights I can choose from, but once treatment starts I will have to assume the same position every time. Dark googles and a black sock (to cover my genitals) will be compulsory. After the nurse talks some more I decide that wearing a visor will be a good idea, too.
When I step back into the room she examines the MED test (Minimal Erythema Dose) they performed on my back yesterday. From this, she can gauge how strong the UV light should be when I go into the cabin for real. Then we go through some paperwork. She asks me if I’m aware of the very small risk of a big side-effect (skin cancer). I say I probably saw it in all the notes I’ve been given but invite her to go through it again – at which point the student nurse who’s sitting in suppresses a giggle.
Today is the follow-up to the assessment I had the day before. Since my GP referral came to the top of the pile I’ve seen a consultant, had blood tests and been photographed near-naked from a number of angles while striking Vitruvian Man poses. And I’ve seen the photos. It’s disturbing enough to see my less-than-lovely body and my condition, psoriasis, so starkly captured. But long ago, I worked in academic publishing: I see myself transformed into a series of illustrations for a medical textbook (Figure 1.1, 1.2 etc.) I imagine the head shots with my eyes blacked out.
We run through a few more do’s and don’ts after which the nurse declares me good-to-go for phototherapy. They’d like to start on Monday. I can’t, I say. I’ll be in studio recording the fourth series of Annika Stranded. So it will be the Monday after that: the first of three sessions per week, for ten weeks.
Why am I telling you this? My condition is neither life-threatening nor debilitating. Phototherapy sessions last for no more than a few minutes. But I’ve had psoriasis for about twenty-five years. In recent times it has spread, and I find it both more morale-sapping and damaging to self-esteem than I once did. I’m curious both to see if the treatment works at all and find out if my preoccupations change in the coming weeks. Perhaps I’ll develop a new relationship with my body beyond the ‘Oh, it’s you’ terms that have sufficed for so long. Perhaps I’ll think of nothing more pressing than whether Pickford or Butland should keep goal for England. Or maybe I’ll find something of interest to others who, like me, have the recurring – if irrational – fear of waking up one morning to find themselves transformed into Michael Gambon in The Singing Detective.
To be continued.
Postscript: In between times I hope to resume Geezer-posting about more familiar subjects, too. In the meantime, here’s a nod to those talented people I might have celebrated during the silent months:
Daniela Denby-Ashe; Cameron Raynes; Richard Brennan; Matt Haig; Tom Hollander; Alison MacLeod; Indira Varma; Alex Preston; Joe Sims; Julie Mayhew; Bryony Hannah; Hannah Silva; Hattie Morahan; Sophie Hannah; Monica Dolan; Louise Erdrich and Cherrelle Skeete.
Particular apologies to A.M. Bakalar and Agnieszka Dale whose books – Children Of Our Age and Fox Season respectively – I would have blogged about but for time pressure and maybe a loss of nerve.