Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Bloody Clinic

Been feeling quite good lately, boosted by getting clear blood test and scan.

Life between chemos was taking shape; more journalistic work coming in, a day out to the Cookham Regatta on Saturday, yesterday made my first ever fruit cake.

Today, 7/9/10 at 11am, I went to the Garry Weston clinic for the pre-chemo blood test, and I thought I might see a doctor about problems using my left, my main hand.

I found myself sitting with women who – I have to rush to the lavatory here just thinking about this – were there because their cancer had returned.

A young woman was talking about how ovarian cancer, “deliberately hides itself away.”

“Mine hid for a year,” she said. “Now it’s in my liver, my blood looks normal, but it’s in my bones. They couldn’t see that on the scan at all, they didn’t know until my leg swelled up. It’s gone to the lymph node in my groin too, that’s gone crazy.”

An older woman next to her gave me an all knowing smile, as if they were speaking about an incorrigible old friend they both knew only too well.

I don’t know these women, their lives, or how far gone they were when it was first discovered. The young woman said she had refused to have chemo for about a month, but it was perhaps longer than that as they don’t give it to you for a month after your operation.

The women spoke of someone who had a recurrence after ten years. Well that sounds OK to me – but one year? How do they face it and look so at ease with it, living with it as what doctors now term, a “chronic condition.” Cancer has taken over their whole lives and will drag on for years.

Habib, in a blue sari and half her front teeth missing says she was diagnosed with a stage 3 ovarian cancer but now it has returned and gone to her liver. She is taking part in a trial, taking something called “Calyx.”

“After twelve years it can come back, despite what they can get out by hand,” she said graphically. But worst of all was hearing those words; “Its gone to my bones.”

They seemed to deal with these disasters matter- of -factly gossiping about the disease as if it is a person they know but I could also sense a bitterness there, as if they belong to a club and they want to disabuse outsiders of the idea that they won’t one day be joining.

I ask to see a doctor as I want to see if they can do anything about the peripheral neuropathy in my left hand, which actually started way back in January as I remember. They say I can go on the list to see one, but sitting waiting I find myself wondering if anyone did put me on the list. Went back to check and I wasn’t on it. A nurse says there are too many people waiting and not enough doctors available. She does make some notes about my condition but I will have to take it up another time. I have seen a notice for a “neuropathology unit,” so I am determined to see if I can use it.

All the way home talk sensibly to myself, telling myself to buck up, but it doesn’t work.

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