Breathing Lessons

To prepare for radiotherapy, I recently discovered that I’ll need to be able to hold my breath.

This is especially important because the laser is going to be focussed on my left side, near my heart.

Originally I had been told that 15 seconds would be enough.

After a bit of practice, this became reassuringly quite manageable.

As I hadn’t played this ‘game’ since I was 8, it was definitely a case of (unexpectedly) reviving an old skill.

I felt I was doing well.


But now apparently, I should (ideally) be aiming to hold my breath for up to 30 seconds!


30 seconds is ages!

That is for elite breath-holders!

If I really have to hold my breath for 30 seconds, I think something may POP!

My lungs, my cheeks, my mind!

As for most people, nearly all my childhood training in breath-holding was done in the bath.

This was to prove that I wasn’t cheating but also to make the whole process way more exciting (with the end of performance tidal wave as I rushed to the surface for air).

Sadly, that is no longer an option.

These days I dare not ever submerge my hair in a bath, as the chances are it would all suddenly float away.

So there will be no underwater training phase for me this time round.

And definitely no dramatic rising up from a lying down position after these breath-holding sessions either.

How awkward and disappointing!


The tricky part for me will be having to stay calmly motionless under the radiotherapy machine – on the outside and on the inside.

At the same time.

For a long time.

And for several times in a row.

But as the (potential) ‘punishment’ could be a damaged heart, the stakes are high.

I do not want my heart to be fried!

Not even lightly.

Frankly, the radiotherapy machine experience looks set to be a fair bit worse than the CT scanner.


Holding my breath for 30 seconds may be a significant challenge - but possibly, eventually, an achievement too?

I honestly think that a person should be able to add a 30-second breath-holding feat to their CV.

Well, I guess that’s something new to aim for then.

  • Great post, love the humorous style! 

    Not quite in the same league, but I experienced the same "DON'T MOVE" when having a biopsy in the CT scanner.  Move and you risk they'll miss the target and we'll all have to come back and do it all again. (No thank you). 

    I'm confident you can do 45 secs with this positive attitude.  Go you!  

  • Thank you. Being in these scanners is a bit like being at school again. The fear of moving at the wrong moment. But as they say, I guess it's for our own good. I am going to find out ...

  • Hi, You can do it, practice breathing deeply from the stomach like in yoga, then inhale deeply. I counted 30 on average, but I'll tell you a horror story which happened once: I counted my seconds as usual but the machine didn't stop! I was terrified and screamed a long time before they reacted. They kept apologising for a couple of day, nurses, managers and everyone in charge,. The machine was faulty and put immediately out of order,I shall never forget the panic I felt. So far, luckily, no sign of any sign has been 2 years but it is still in my mind. Although now I have colon cancer...Not the same area treated, yet...

  • As for the hair loss, not the miracle remedy but it might be reassuring to know that Biotin slows down the process and works on strenghening the follicles. You can only take it after your treatment I believe as they don't advise to take supplements during. I have been taking it on a regular basis and it has stopped my hair loss. I cannot say they are as thick as they used to be, but at least I don't find a huge handful on the brush anymore.

  • Hi, I will have a go at working on my breathing techniques. 

    Thank you for sharing your horror story. I am going to make doubly sure that a member of staff is going to be paying attention. Surely someone is supposed to be watching and listening constantly?