Finally, I'm one of those people you raise funds for at coffee mornings and on long walks. If you were one of those people who did the raising, I tell you - I really am grateful for those 'recent advances in cancer treatment'. No, really! But that's about all I'm grateful for.
At my first diagnostic hospital appointment, the consultant said 'I am so certain that it's cancer that if the biopsy turns out negative, I'll make them do it again'. And then he went on holiday.
Really scientific, I thought. And bad timing.
I noticed that he shook my husband's hand before he turned to me, both on arrival and departure. Sexist issues, too. Maybe.
That afternoon, I had been dumped in a small cell-like treatment room for over 40 minutes, and left twiddling my thumbs instead of being given the expected prone tour of the diagnostic rooms. They later said I should've brought a book. (The fact that I had a bag full of them in the main waiting room and a husband who could have kept me company seemed to have passed them by.)
Anyway, finally giving up, I had marched out of the treatment room in my little diagnostic cape (neat little red riding hood affair), ready to march off home. It was five o'clock and the other people in my life had need of my presence back home. I hadn't banked on a nurses' station almost immediately outside which kinda halted me in my tracks.
To their credit, they did then start to get everything in motion but by the time everything was done and dusted the hospital appointment system had closed for the night so they couldn't even finish the day's work by setting up the next series of diagnostic appointments.
After the biopsy ('You're not a bleeder, then' - quote of the week by a nurse as she jammed her fists into my roly poly flesh like she was turning dough for some homemade bread), they had taken me to 'the quiet room' which had comfortable chairs and the offer of a cup of tea. It was pretty obvious what was coming except it wasn't to me as I didn't know consultants diagnosed ahead of the results of the tests they ask for. But there you go. My expectations are always dashed.
Oh, bless...the apogee of that day was his question to me as I sat there waiting for him to speak. "Do you know what is going on?"
How the fuck should I know what's going on? Nobody had bothered to keep me informed so far. However, I did manage to provide a polite version of 'Well, I'm here for a range of tests and you're going to let me know the results when you have them at my next appointment, unless you're such a smart arse that you think you know already'. Of course, he did and he was.
My next appointment - to confirm the diagnosis *officially* - took place in one of those little weather stations where the little man comes out for the good weather and the little lady comes out when it's fine. Oh - actually it was the same cell-like room as before but I think the doctor and the nurse were auditioning to become a double act in a weather vane. The only consistent was an observer from another hospital. We became quite good friends while the others dashed in and out. I haven't seen her since of course because she actually works, did I say? in another hospital.
Finally the Oncologist turned up. The weather settled for a while - everyone just on a quiet rev while decisions were made as to whether it would be wet or fine. But then the Oncologist spoke the unexpected and the weather vane started again in earnest. Pieces of paper were hurriedly taken out of the folder they had just newly given me, additional labels were required, people flitted in and out and I was told I wasn't going for various tests after all (except I had no idea I was going for them in the first place as I hadn't taken very much in so far).
I had been shaken, rattled and rolled by the stand-in consultant to a point of oblivion. (Keep clear of Associate Specialists whatever you do!) He had entered the room without so much as the merest eye contact, keeping his gaze on the paperwork in front of him. And then he had pursued his various points. Whenever I muttered 'yes' or grunted an acknowledgement of what he said, he'd look up briefly and then quickly took his attention back to the safety of the printed page.
He was completely oblivious to the fact that at one point he had lost me. I had disconnected from the conversation. I was devastated by something he had said. The nurse had managed to stay in the dry weather section for a while and asked me a couple of times if I wanted to ask something but I didn't have a question. I knew I had emotional things to say and I just wanted him OUT so I could talk about my feelings. But it wasn't to be. And finally I had to start talking and then I couldn't stop.
I am embarrassed to say that, from that point, every time the stand-in consultant started to talk to me, I turned to the nurse to give my answer. Finally he escaped from the room and came back with the Oncologist.
Later he congratulated the Oncologist for having calmed things down. He seems to have missed the fact that all the emotional work went on while he was out of the room.
In the meantime, having been reassured that none of the tests would be 'invasive', I received an appointment for a scan which involved very invasive treatment. He lied to me and had the lie confirmed by a nurse. Yeah, I know he didn't actually intend to lie. But he 'misinformed' me. Who was more scared that day, I wonder, him or me?!
And yesterday I went back in and asked for a copy of the letter I should have received a fortnight ago with the details of my treatment - my GP hadn't had a copy either. And when I read it, I saw they had decided that I should return to see the consultant for a scan of a hitherto unexplored part of my body. WOT?
We have since established that I am in fact going back for another scan of the affected part - so that's all right then. BUT in the process, we discovered that they had given me another appointment on that same day for a small operation similar to a biopsy - only there's never anybody there to do that job on that particular day of the week. I settle myself down - only to get thoroughly rattled again as my world, like a kaleidoscope, takes off again in a different direction.
If they take the wrong leg off, I won't be surprised. And it's even not a leg I'm expecting them to operate on.
Since then, they've had me travel an hour there and an hour back for a stomach scan. The scan took precisely three minutes during which time my husband had disappeared to put more money in the meter in the hospital grounds. I was hanging around for him to come back for much longer than I was lying on the investigation table. I'm glad he didn't decide to go for a coffee on the way back.
Then they had me travel an hour there and an hour back for a body scan. That was more worth while - that one took six hours.
Always a life of extremes.
I wonder sometimes if it's a plot to make you look forward to oblivion as an escape from the chaos of an earthly life.
Anyway, I have blogged my spleen. I am no longer a GOB Virgin.