Chemo is a two day process. You have to appear for tests the day before the real thing. The Garry girls on the desk told me to come later next time as I had waited so long to be seen the week before. All the people getting their chemo on the Tuesday have priority, but as everyone for either day is bunched in together your appointment time doesn’t count. Just turn up sometime in the morning is the rule.
A Malaysian looking lad taking blood told me that everything is chronically slow because the hospital computer system is so poor.
After ten minutes of standing tut tutting, a young man gave me his seat. I sat next to his mother, a round, jolly looking woman in a pink striped headscarf.
“It’s like Selfridge’s sale in here, isn’t it?” she said.
I asked her the big question, what exactly was “it” i.e. chemotherapy like? There is something redolent of torture about the very name and for some reason one wants all the bad news before it happens.
She looked as if I’d just asked her to describe the reasons we are at war in
“It’s hard work, and you never know the outcome,” said her son helpfully.
She told me she had put on a stone during her months of chemo, which was worrying. This was due to the steroids you have to take at the beginning each session, ten the night before and ten on the day.
She also said you have to be careful with hygiene and domestic chores as your immunity is so low. “I had to take a lot of care about that,” she said with disgust.
So I felt I had learned a little bit more about my immediate future, but not much.
Through an open door I could see one of the young women doctors I’d seen before, in what seemed a long time ago. I remembered her sapphire engagement ring. She was talking to another doctor about a holiday, perhaps her Honeymoon, she’d just spent sailing up the Amazon. She was so happy, blazing with a life before her.
Opposite me sat a fat elderly man in very tight short shorts. His legs and thighs, hairless through chemo, were shining white.
And we started a grumpy conversation about male dress, particularly those men in shorts on the tube who spread their legs wide.
“But you’ve got to keep in mind how lucky we are,” she said. “Fifty or even twenty years ago we wouldn’t be getting this treatment.”
According to Indian Government figures published in 2008,