The update on Mad Lucy is that she made it to gin on Friday evening. Unbelievable. She thinks the anaesthetic has really improved since thirteen years ago, when she woke up, chundered everywhah and was groggy for hours. This time she woke up, the anaesthetist said ‘Alright?’ and she said ‘Hmm? Yes, absolutely fine, thanks’ chipper as anything. She didn’t sleep much that first night and was a bit wiped out, but the boobs look wonderful. They used superglue instead of stitches. She showed us. The scars are already tiny. There is no mess, no bruising. The surgeons are very good at it. And my warrior was fantastic.
I am interested in all this because I am starting to have minor op anxiety. This stems from the last op I had which was to remove a cyst from an ovary. It took place in New York. I was 22 weeks pregnant with Alfie. After the op they gave me my own morphine dispenser and I held off as much as possible as I did not want to affect Little Baby Alf’s brain. (I think that was a vain hope as Little Baby Alf’s brain turned out very strange, just like his father’s.) The pain then clamped me up so much it put me into labour and resulted in a big kerfuffle, because when I came round from the op I could not speak, so I kept pressing the intercom button and saying nothing. The nurse’s voice came over saying ‘Mrs Tingey, if you have nothing to say, please stop pressing your button.’ Eventually I managed to sign to a passing male nurse that I wanted to use a pen and I wrote ‘I am in labour. I am not meant to be in labour. Help.’
They gave me magnesium to stop labour but I was allergic to it and started to blow up like Violet Beauregard. Didn’t go purple though. Fred found me in Labour and Delivery (worrying enough) surrounded by doctors shouting, injecting and panicking with machines bleeping and flashing.
All was well in the end apart maybe from Baby Alf’s brain, but I can’t help associating ops with panic stations and pain. Mad Lucy’s experience is therefore encouraging. I had expected her to be moaning and groaning, covered in blood and bruises, definitely not up for gin, but there she was stripping off and showing us her boobies.
On Thursday I had to go for two scans. The Department of Nuclear Medicine is surprisingly normal and cheery. The waiting room has pictures, kids’ toys, photos with names of all the staff smiling down from the wall. For the bone scan you walk into a tiny room. The radioactive material is in a container the size of a jar of mustard behind an orange-tinted screen. The syringe which the material goes into is held in a metal container. Two nurses check who you are and check the amount and name of the substance. Your arm goes on a pillow, the needle goes in, some blood gets sucked out then pushed in again, then the stuff gets injected. They tell you to come back in three hours, to try to drink a litre of fluid during that time, and to wee a lot as you want only your bones taking up the radioactive material, not your tissue.
I bought an innocent smoothie and sat in the WRVS cafe. Imagined that I was pulsating with radioactivity. I beamed and gleamed at people. I wrote a long letter, read a newspaper, had a cup of tea. I had only used up half an hour. I people-watched for another half hour. Drank a bottle of water. The caff got more crowded so I left and had a little walk. Then I discovered two computers and went on Facebook for a bit, drinking all the time. Chatted to my sister and my friend Levi online. Made them LOL as I said I was avoiding anyone who could possibly be pregnant, even fat men. People-watched again. Marvelled at the varieties of human. Finally, it was time for the scan. I was awash with fluid.
This chap takes you off from the waiting room. He waits while you go into the loo, as you have to have an empty bladder. The only thing in the scanning room is a huge smooth contoured machine and a chair to put your bag on. You keep your clothes on and lie down on a stretcher type thing. It rises up in the air and moves forward. The chap asks you to wriggle back a bit. ‘Don’t want to chop off your feet.’ (He means on the pictures.) A flat paving slab thing approaches your nose. It really does not look as if it is going to stop. Millimetres from your nose when you’re about to do a James Bond and duck out of there, it does stop. The chap tucks your arms in on little plastic platforms. ‘Just lie still, breathe normally, it will take fifteen minutes,’ he says.
I lie there. It’s quite dark with the thing above my nose. I realise it is moving very slowly down my body. I shut my eyes and think about my flute pupil Claire who is about to have her baby. I am just imagining that the baby has been born and Claire is passing her or him to me to hold. I delightedly take the baby into my arms and bam! I am suddenly bathed in light behind my shut eyes. I open them and see that the platform has moved down enough to stop obstructing the light. Must remember to tell Claire that her baby is Light.
After the scan I went back to the park and ride and drove to Gwanny’s. She doesn’t care about the radiation. She fed me with colli cheese. Mmmm have missed cheese. She then fed me tapioca. I know, she’s crazy. No one in this world eats tapioca. Grampa came back. He’d been doing the ponies, kind Grampa. We then chatted to Chloe in Boston on Skype.
I left at five forty five, parked in the multi-storey at the hospital and went to the CT department. The receptionist poured me a drink and asked if I wanted blackcurrant or lemon. Lemon, I said. She gave it to me. ‘Sorry,’ I said, ‘this is not lemon, it’s aniseed.’
‘I’ll add more lemon,’ she said.
She didn’t understand. Aniseed is the one thing in the world I can’t have due to an overenthusiastic encounter with Ouzo in my youth. Oh god. I had to drink it. The whole glass. It made me want to make a massive vomcano right there in the middle of the floor.
After half an hour I had to drink another whole glass. I never wanted to drink again. The only good thing about the wait was that I spotted an ad for Spamalot’s tour at the Corn Exchange next week and I’ve been wanting to go with Alfie for ages.
Half an hour later the CT woman laid me down on another moving stretcher. ‘We’ll inject you with dye’ she said. ‘You’ll feel a hot flush and as if you need to go to the loo.’
This was an understatement. I felt a hot WHOOOOSH and as if I had gone to the loo. (I hadn’t thank god.)
The CT scanner is a big cylinder. Your body moves slowly through it. You register dark and light streaks flitting round and round the inner bit of the cylinder. They tell you to ‘breathe in and hold……and breathe out’, several times. How funny that I had a CT scan thirty years ago when the whole thing was in its infancy, yet it still feels like sci-fi even now; it’s certainly never become a routine event.
I was the last person to be done. All was deserted when I got out of there at eight. Drove home still wanting to throw up but marvelling that human life is valued so highly. That my life is deemed worthy of such technological expertise. I marvelled at the NHS and how it still manages to exist. When I am marvelling at things really hard, I forget to put the radio on. I forgot to put the radio on until I was coming off the M11! That is some marvelling.
I went straight down the Half Moon as Susanna and Ben and friends were doing a fundraiser, Ben for a charity for the disabled, and Susanna for Breast Cancer. It was serious entertainment with zillions of guest artists including Tabby and Bashi, and hilarious intricate mash-ups of different songs. Susanna is doing the Moonwalk on the 12th May, ie walking 26 miles through London during the night in a decorated bra, because of me! (Och, the crazy loon.) She is raising funds for breast cancer research. Just in case anyone would like to swell the coffers by a few quid, the page is:
Today we went to Roydon to christen Big Alf’s boat. The boat is ‘Irene Jean’ after Fred’s mum. Fred drank quite a lot of champagne. On the way home I offered to drop him off at the beer festival in Green Tye. ‘Oh no’, he said, ‘we’re not going til eight.’
‘Who are you going with?’ I asked.
‘Well…’… pause…’Colin….’ he said.
‘Colin….is dead,’ I said.
‘Oh yeah, you’re right,’ said Fred.
‘Could drop you off whenever then,’ I said. ‘Colin won’t mind when you turn up. He’s probably there already.’
Colin died suddenly of pneumonia at Christmas. He was part of the drinking group known as the DONS, the Dads of Northgate School. He was so inextricably linked with the beer festival that I understand Fred cannot envisage one without the other. Colin knew all the history and landmarks of the area, most useful for the stagger home across the fields in the dark.
People keep asking how Fred is and I always say ‘Fine!’ like why would he not be fine? But now I’m not so sure. Anyway, he’s gone to the festival now and I know Gary’s there so Fred won’t look really daft all on his loz talking to Colin. I suspect only Colin knows the way home through the dark fields, so I’m hoping he is there tonight.