It's that day again - Oncologist Day (or OD because I always end up overdosing on information). We have to go up to the hospital to the oncology dept, past the open chemo-suite where short-haired, or be-wigged patients will be sitting in high back chairs, their long suffering arms cradled on white pillows. Above their heads, plastic bags filled with clear innocuous looking fluids, will dangle from metal stands, connecting to winnowed veins via clear - we've got nothing to hide - IV lines that wind around their
victims patients charges, delivering their cyto-toxic concoctions directly into bruised flesh. It all relies on the gravity of the situation.
Past the chemo-suite there is another room, shared between those who are coping less well with their treatments, and those who need blood tests. The doors are often closed here.
We will give my name into the Reception Desk, smile, go along the corridor to the waiting room, and wait. Sometimes we are seen quite quickly, but at other times we can wait an hour or so. Then I will try to do my breathing exercises inconspicuously, and people watch.
Waiting rooms are ideal places for people watching. Here the faces are mostly wrinkled with experience. I feel very young sitting their among them. When I've been with my parents, people have made the mistake of assuming one of them is the patient, not me. In all my visits I've only seen 3 or 4 people around my age (39/40). It's easy to feel cheated about this, but if I start to feel self-pity, I'll remind myself of all the children who are tucked away in other places, hooked up to their own IV-lines, and moreover the majority of these kids don't complain, or wallow in feeling sorry for themselves.
Anyway, we may or may not get talking to people while we wait. More usually I find the English reserve keeps a lot of people quietly locked in their own inner worlds, while I will talk to just about anyone! The only people I don't want to talk to are the ones who go on and on and on about everything that's wrong with them, and moan endlessly. They are usually the older people, and I want to say, "Please stop being so negative and miserable. You've lasted long enough to see your grandchildren grow up and get married! If I were in my 60s when this happened I'd be just as scared, in pain, etc., as I am now, but at least I'd be thinking, okay, I reached my 60s, and that's something to be thankful for! I'm praying I see 40 at this stage in the game."
Sometimes my assigned nurse will come to see me. She is lovely, and means well, but talks to me with that hideous tone of voice that should really be reserved for patients in their mid-90s who are in the closing stages of their lives and dementia. It's the voice that has poor, poor you! as its undertone, no matter what words are being spoken. She says, "How are you?" with a heavy sigh that says I know poor baby, it's terrible isn't it? Life is so unfair! I think she'd be devastated if she realised she did that, but how do you tell someone? Is it acceptable to say, "Look, you're a lovely woman and everything, but if you use that 'talking to the terminally ill voice on me one more time, I may just have to ride Henry to my next appointment and trample you to death in the car-park!!!"
Time's marching on. The hour is fast approaching. Chemo or tablet? That's the HUGE question. Nausea or no Nausea. Baldness or Acne? Intrusive IV line or Bitter pill to swallow? Existing harsher than harsh treatment or brand-spanking new not-even-half-as-bad-as-chemo treatment?
Watch this space!