The Cancer Story…

ros aitkenChemo Club Blog Five

By Ros Aitken in London

‘Clinic and blood test day’

Off I go to the bus stop in cold pouring rain, defiantly humming ‘Now is the Month of Maying’ under my breath, conjuring up a memory of an ad hoc performance years ago in Cambridge involving self as one of 2 altos, 2 drunken tenors and Tom conducting.  Happy days!

Bus soon full of seemingly hundreds of schoolkids, who are nowadays let out at 3pm.  Driver pointedly switches off engine at one stop to make it clear he’s not letting anyone else on, so scuppering my chances of arriving early at the hospital, as I had intended.

So I arrive only just half an hour before my clinic appointment and when I ask the jobsworth on reception if I can have my blood test first, am told in no uncertain terms that because (a) I have no form and (b) it is  past 4 o’clock, this is not possible.  (It later turns out that she had the form in her possession all along.)

However, clinic doctor is running only slightly behind time, and I meet ‘my’ Macmillan nurse, who is lovely and does my blood test when the doc. has finished reassuring me that everything from my runny nose to my splitting thumbs is a perfectly normal result of the chemo. So that’s all right  then.

And I’m soon to have another scan – the equivalent of sneaking a look in the oven to check the progress of a baking cake.

The ‘system’ has now caught up with my correct drugs prescription – good – but it has not registered my phone number – bad – though it has managed to remove the incorrect one.  Getting there.  The Macmillan nurse (Sarah) will make yet another attempt to sort that one out.

I get a bus back in the middle of the Tooting rush hour, and it takes about 20 minutes even to get out of the hospital grounds.

The tortuous journey is not helped by a lengthy stand-off between the driver and a young man who won’t believe his ticket is not valid.

So I experience another turning-off of a bus engine, and listen to a lengthy phone conversation between driver and controller, punctuated with an increasingly personal slanging match between driver and passenger, who finally wins the day.  Off we go.

Then an elderly man boards, via the front doors, with a buggy too wide to push up the aisle.  This causes mayhem since it’s almost impossible to get past it, and he either has no English or no awarness of the effects of his behaviour on others, or both.

Eventually he is persuaded by the rest of us to get off and reenter via the back door, but meanwhile tempus fugit and I don’t get home till after 7o’clock.  Not a good day for the 493.

Still – off to a great dinner at our favourite fish restaurant, and I can taste the wine!


Another (Chemo) Day

And who would have thought the traffic could be so heavy so early in the morning. As if sitting in a jam in East Sheen for 15 minutes isn’t bad enough, I am accosted by a  little old lady who tells me all the details of her diabetes and resultant eye problems (grisly).

I finally arrive at reception one minute after 9 o’clock and discover that I have no appointments card – retained by the jobsworth on Tuesday.  This does not seem to matter – probably happens all the time – and I am soon installed with my drip.

This morning’s patients are nearly all males of a certain age.  They address all the nurses as ‘Darling’ and vie with each other over who can make the most witty comments: ‘How come you look so beautiful on a Thursday morning?’; ‘Come and sit on my lap’; ‘She’s my girlfriend, not yours’, etc.  All borne by the nurses with tolerant smiles.

Loo visits made more complicated today by the closing of one WC for ‘building work’. There are 2 more along the corridor but strictly single sex.

When I arrive at the Ladies a woman, not a patient, is already queuing.  I indicate that I am therefore going to use the Gents, and she primly points out that it says ‘Men only’.

I counter this by indicating the Disabled sign on the door, saying that with my dripstand I reckon I qualify, and negotiating self and stand through the door. (She is still queuing when I emerge, and there are no men in sight.)

At lunch time I make a fatal mistake and go for the egg, lettuce and tomato sandwich, which is totally salt free  – even worse than my previous cheese and tomato experiment – and therefore completely tasteless.

No doubt this is NHS policy.  Must remember to have tuna next week – even the NHS salt police can’t stop that from having some flavour.

The pharmacy send up the correct drugs (triumph) though there is one box only of the anti-nausea tablets, with the instruction: ‘2 to be taken 3 times a day for 5 days.’  Point out to nurse that (a) previously the dose has been 1, 3 times a day, and that (b) I shall quickly run out.

She says she’ll contact pharmacy, who shortly oblige with another box, though still with the same instruction, which the nurse tells me simply to cross out and ignore.  Not sure if this is a victory for commonsense or a sign of deeply worrying incompetence in the pharmacy – or possibly both.

Get away before 3.30 and am able to phone husband Tom and tell him that not only am I on a bus, but it is moving!