“A fine looking granulation,” said the doctor last week, looking down at a small scab on my abdomen when my hole finally closed.
All though in NHS hospitals you rarely see the same doctor twice, they all have a spectacular spray of unusual words – it pays to increase your word power, as the Reader’s Digest used to say, and you can do this in seconds if you have a serious condition.
I am currently toying with the word, “adjuvant.” That is the kind of chemo I am about to have, and it means, I think, following on after the removal of all cancerous parts. According to the dictionary it simply means, “A help. An ingredient to help the main ingredient.”
That sounds a bit worryingly pathetic, but it is better than having the sort needed to shrink existing tumours, or having chemo as palliative care. I am happy with that word, and say it over to myself; it sounds a bit like adulation and jubilant.
I also get letters from my consultants sent via my GP. These are often almost indecipherable.
British NHS surgeons are now under such pressure than they cannot be expected to write to the individual patient in lay person’s language.
A recent confidential poll of surgeons, released to the press on June 17th, suggested that almost one in five had been involved in an incident in which a patient was harmed, due to the need to cut up as many people as possible in as short a time as possible, to meet government targets.
The survey, carried out by Bournemouth University, shows that during a two week period 40% of respondents reported being involved in a ‘Near Miss’ (NM) in an operating theatre, where a patient was nearly harmed, while 19% recorded an ‘Adverse Event’ (AE), in which a patient was actually harmed.
This being the situation, I quite understand that they have piles of paperwork and have to dash off a letter to the local doctor as best they can. But these can make understanding what they are saying about you something equivalent to looking at hieroglyphics.
In my last letter I had, “debulked, metastic, seroma, immunohistrochemistry.”
Non of that was bad news luckily.
In previous ones; “Increased uptake,” “transient paraneoplastic manifestation,” (that meant stiff fingers) “endometrioid,” (I first had that one when I went for my results and they kept repeating it to me as if I was budgie learning to talk) and most interesting of all, “dirty necrosis.” I won’t be boasting about having that.
All these words are preferable to consultanol lung into metaphor. I am still getting over one professor telling me, when I was at my most fragile, that my cancer was “a Rottweiler not a poodle.”
I took that home and lived with it night and day.
Why do doctors nowadays feel they have to belt you over the head with the seriousness of you situation? They certainly don't go in for putting an optimistic light on anything. Most people who’ve been told they have cancer and are waiting for results are hardly in a frivolous mood sitting there with half a pint and cap and bells on. Most of them, if they are like me, think they are on the brink of death.