Dealing With Cancer

ros aitkenChemo Club Blog Nine

By Ros Aitken in London

Am fortunately sufficiently alert to realise that during az very busy time in London it would  be madness to try to follow my usual route to the hospital, except in the early mornings.

This being London, there is an alternative – fast trains between Richmond and Waterloo, underground to Tooting Broadway Station and then a short walk.

So that’s what I set out to do on the afternoon I am due at the clinic to get my latest scan results. And very successful I am too, negotiating with relative insouciance  the complexities (non-existent according to husband Tom) of the southern reaches of the Northern Line, and the shortcut through back streets to the hospital.

The mystery statue of Edward VII

Outside Tooting Broadway station there is, improbably, a huge statue of Edward VII.  I must try to find out why.

This time I see not the big chief but, as on previous occasions, one of the registrars, who has excellent news for me.  The scan has revealed that the tumour is shrinking and there are no new cancer cells.  What’s more, blood tests have revealed that something called in the trade  my ’tumour marker’ has reduced fom 2071 in March to 678 in June.

I feel tremendously smug, like a school child who has wildly exceeded  her teacher’s expectations.  ( Apparently, many people ‘succumb’ within a month, which ‘You obviously have not done.’)  It is well worth all those frightful side effects.  And, I am now half way through my treatment, with the real possibility of a holiday in September.

I don’t even mind hanging around for my blood test, waiting in vain to hear my name called. Suddenly a nurse appears from the inner sanctum and asks the waiting room at large: ‘Is anyone waiting for a blood test?’ Instantly galvanised, I shut my book, wave my arm in the air, leap to my feet and bound forward, easily beating several other hopefuls, including a teenager.

And so to Thursday, and the first of the second and I hope last leg of my chemo sessions.

Approaching Wimbledon on the bus at 8.30am, I see traffic building up and congratulate myself on my plan to return by other means this afternoon.

Tattooed man apologises

Shortly after I am ensconced under my drip, a large man with huge tattooed arms arrives, penitently asking forgiveness for ‘losing his rag’ last week.  He is surrounded by angelic nurses and doctors, presumably giving absolution.  (There was a Pharmacy cock up –  surprise.)

The group includes my Doctor Young, who’s  heard about my results and bounces over for a mutual congratulatory session, with promises – unfulfilled –  of coming in for a longer chat later on.

There is something wrong with the wheels of my dripstand today, which means that enormous pressure has to be exerted in order to get it to move at all – not helpful when one is constantly going off to the loo, usually in a comparative hurry. It provides amusement for others, including a charming elderly couple from Walton upon Thames who both enjoy lengthy chats with me.

At least the stand has been fully charged overnight, so does not emit the usual persistent bleep every time it has to be unplugged for a loo trip. This constant bleeping of one’s own and others’ apparatus is a continuous source of irritation.

As well as occurring when the devices are unplugged, it provides a five minute warning when a chemo bag is due to run out, a signal when it does run out, and a signal when the battery is running low.  In a room full of stands, this means that there is rarely a break from the noise. (All the nurse are adept at jabbing a silencing finger on the button of any bleeping stand they may be passing.)

And now…the survey lady with an ipad

After lunch, just as I am getting bored, a smart young woman hoves into view clutching an ipad.  ‘Ha!’, I think, ‘Yet another volunteer doing a patient survey.’ And so it proves.  As usual, most of the questions are in some way irrelevant, and her IT skills are somewhat limited, but it passes the time.  As she moves round the room, it is interesting to see how animated everyone gets when she reaches the ‘Any other comments or suggestions’ section at the end.

I get away by half past three, having torn myself free of the Walton on Thames couple who want a final chat, and head for the underground station, pausing to look – in vain – for any kind of inscription on Edward VII’s plinth.  It is marked ‘Peace’ so perhaps it  commemorates the end of the Boer War.

I reach home in record time and, in the absence of husband Tom at a conference in Holland (giving a paper on the New Zealand Salvation Army and Maori), have to make my own cup of tea.  At least it waited until I got home before it started to rain again.