I relate the following not because I am proud, please understand, but because my little hard-gleaned truths might help other newly diagnosed ‘strong women’ ! :
Again, I assured my friend who had accompanied me that I would be absolutely fine on my own, why would I not be, and she went to park the car for me before going on into Cambridge. I went to Oncology, showed them the letter and asked, ‘Is this where I am meant to be for an MRI Scan?’
‘Yes’ the chap said, ‘yes,’ again, ‘and your notes are here so it must be.’ He smiled. ‘We’re expecting you. Take a seat.’
I checked with the bloke sitting next to me as well. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘we’ve been coming for six years. They come and call you.’
I chatted to him for an hour about his son’s Ewing Sarcoma which he got when he was thirteen. Then I went and asked again. ‘Look, sorry, but are you sure I’m in the right place?’
This time the chap checked with someone else and said, ‘No, you were meant to be 100 metres along the road at MRI Reception one hour ago. Your later appointment is here. That’s why your notes are here.’
I ran. I burst in to the reception, panting ‘I’m so sorry. I’ve been waiting in the wrong place for an hour.’
The receptionist said ‘They won’t scan you now. You’ve thrown their whole program out. You were meant to be here half an hour early.’
‘I’m so sorry,’ I repeated. ‘I made a mistake. I did ask if I was in the right place…. it really seemed like the right place.’
‘That’s why we send a map out,’ she said. OMG did I ever feel incompetent and ungrateful. She went off and came back. ‘Well, they will see you, but there’ll be a long wait.’
I waited another hour with around ten people. Grabbed a Hello magazine. I was surprised to find that the odd tear was uncontrollably plopping onto the magazine. Shit. I’m forty five for God’s sake. Where had Strong Woman gone?
Eventually I sat waiting outside a locker room in a hospital gown, no clothes, no phone, no bag. I felt physically and emotionally like an onion that has had layers and layers removed. Exposed to the core. I saw that buoyancy is fragile. You can go under so fast, it’s ridiculous. And although you know, you know, you know your friends and family are thinking of you, you can suddenly feel horribly alone.
The scan was interesting enough to distract me from my terrible pathetic feelings. They give you ear plugs. You go on all fours on the platform thing, they raise it up (my usual self would probably have started singing ‘You raise me up!’ Just for a laugh), you lie forward and put your head on a foam support, your arms forwards and your boobs through two holes. The MRI people sort of rummage the breasts to make sure they are in position. Then they go away. I didn’t feel alone though now as I was so intrigued. The machine does not just make knocking noises. It judders and buzzes and rhythmically groans. A bit like a rollercoaster when you’re at the top before the big descent. Fascinating. Twenty minutes of pure entertainment. I entered a trance state.
I went back to Oncology, had blood taken, MRSA swabs (nose, roof of mouth, groin, sorry but it is all quite fascinating), talked with a nurse about side-effects, and met another consultant, a really beautiful young doctor. She made me tell her what I understand so far. She told me that instead of having FEC-T, I will be having T-FEC. It means having docetaxyl for the first three treatments, then the other drugs beginning with FEC for the second lot of three treatments. She explained that women in a recent trial did better with T-FEC. She explained that the chemo before op is a good choice as any rogue cells which might have gone further into the body will be killed. It’s safe. (We hope, I keep adding darkly, normally with a massive chuckle.)
So then the nurse showed me round the ‘pod’ in the day unit, where the chemo happens. Beds and chairs round the edges, ill peeps and a big drug station in the middle. I asked the nurse how come the doctor I just met feels confident to overturn a whole team’s decision on the FEC-T. ‘It’s her speciality,’ she replied. ‘She’s amazing, really clever.’
She certainly seemed so. ‘So you would trust her?’
‘Yes, I would.’
Nice and simple. I will trust her then.
I walked out of there at three pm. I had been there for five hours. Totally forgot about food. Didn’t think it would take so long.
In the car I started to cry again, sob even, and just couldn’t stop. The news talked about the twenty two Belgian children killed in the coach accident. I howled for them and their families. You would think this would have jolted me out of my ridiculous self-pitying state, but it didn’t.
Arriving home, I found the post had arrived. I opened it to find the map showing MRI reception clearly two along from Oncology. I couldn’t stop crying. Jetting hot tears! Seriously, this is not like me. Three slightly cutting remarks from a receptionist and I am to be floored for the rest of the day?
I managed to give a flute lesson. My adult pupil was kind, sympathetic, insisted she would come with me and give em what for. We drank tea. Then she left. All my children were out. The dogs surrounded me, Whisky on my knee, Treacle leaning her hairy bulk against my legs, Huggi laying his head on my knee. There were plums and strawberries that a dear friend had dropped in earlier from the market. I phoned several friends, all of whom were out! Then I remembered my sister. Thank god. Due to her circs, she can be relied upon to accept crying as a normal part of life. As she did. I just boohooed and boohooed and boohooed.