Ros Aitken’s Cancer Blog

ros an d gladstlones grandsonChemo Club Blog Three

 By Ros Aitken in London

Two days before next chemo, I  report for mandatory blood test and clinic appointment.  I hand in appointments card at ward reception and go into the ‘day room ‘ as they euphemistically call the waiting room, perhaps to disguise the fact that an awful lot of waiting goes on there.

As usual, telly blaring away in corner.  Locate remote. Barely have time to ascertain that the 3 people already ensconced (and all reading) don’t mind if I turn down the volume when enter a nurse, clutching my appointments card.

Call for Mr Aitken

Nurse:  Mr Aitken?

Self: (thinking this is an interesting new variant on Mrs Atkin/Atkins/Atkinson etc.) That’s me.

Nurse, trying to hide falling face: Oh, I thought it said ‘Rosalino.’

She’d obviously been looking forward to escorting some kind of romantic Italian gigolo.

Two days later on my bus to the chemo session is a man with a small piece of elastoplast on his index finger, which he is holding ostentatiously extended before him.  He checks with the driver that our destination is St George’s Hospital Tooting and on arrival, makes straight for A & E. (Suffering from ’manbrokenwrist’?)

Report to Reception at 8.50 am, and go to ‘day room’, which is deserted, apart of course for the telly. Not only fail to find remote, but see a warning on whiteboard to the effect that there is a delay of 1 hour today because of shortage of staff in chemopharmacy.  Sigh, but am thankful that at least this time I’m armed with a bar of chocolate, a Michael Frayn novel and the BBC History Magazine.

However, no sooner have I rung husband Tom to warn him of my late return when, on the dot of 9am, a nurse appears to collect me.  Apparently warning does not apply to me as I’m on long chemo – and my stuff is there anyway.  (Wonder if my file is marked ‘Don’t mess this woman about again!)

A lively interlude

Morning enlivened by nurse coming in to summon help because a lady fainted in the ‘day room’ when her name was called. (Perhaps from shock at unexpected punctuality?)  When the lady is wheeled in I recognise a jolly, fat woman whom I would  have thought the very last type to faint.  However, later when a doctor comes to give her the once-over, she (the lady) tells her quite casually, among other things, that she had a heart attack and  died back in 2008.

My anti nausea drug is being changed again – to  a super duper state of the art stuff which I am presented with in elaborate packaging which looks like a small book. Nurse flips it open to reveal 3 silver mounds each the size of half a walnut shell.  I gaze in horror, but she assures me that the capsules inside are quite small.  (They are.)

I don’t like the way military language gets used when people talk about cancer patients (‘battling’ etc.) but must admit to a fantasy of a band of doughty hobbits fumbling their way across country to Sauron, encouraged by Ian McKellen brandishing a dripstand for a wand. Though actually my tumour looks just like Gollum.

Lunch time – the lovely male assistant who’s always been there before has been replaced by a quiet young girl with not much English.  When I ask after the possibility of a brown bread sandwich she looks systematically through all the white ones and I realise she thinks ‘brown bread’ is a filling.

I find a brown one for myself but it is very disappointing – cheese, tomato and bread all not only taste the same but even seem to share the same texture.  You can tell what you’re eating only from the tricolour appearance.  Memo – have white and a decent filling next week.  (Her vocabulary fortunately did include ‘toffee yoghurt and banana.)

In the afternoon the windows are opened in honour of the hottest day of the year so far and everyone’s blue and white chemo bags flutter on top of their dripstands like so much washing waving in the breeze.

Treatment over at the amazingly early time of 2 o’clock, I am waiting for my bus sitting in the sun on one of the tulip-surrounded benches given by the hospital friends.

Up comes a cultured looking elderly gent with a limp and a stick who enquires if I am enjoying my heliotherapy.  Embarrassingly, my post chemo brain cannot cope with this witticism until he starts to explain it. I am comforted by the thought that I at least looked like someone who’d have a smattering of Greek.