Well, things have been going on. Oh yes, we are back firmly in breast-land. I’d had a lovely afternoon sitting in Aunty Lindesay’s garden in the sun(!) and was just heading off on Tuesday evening to Janet’s poetry reading at the Iraqi Cultural Centre in Shepherd’s Bush when I realised I felt quite shivery and a bit ill. On my way out of the door, I grabbed some paracetamol, just in case it should get worse. By the time I was wandering around Shepherd’s Bush Green looking for the place, I had stiffened up with cold despite wearing about ten layers. I loved the talks and poems nonetheless, and as Janet advised, I let the wondrous Arabic wash over me much as you would let a bubbling brooke bathe you with its sound. However, the journey home was almost unbearable. I was aware that my bra on the right side was feeling tighter and tighter and my breast was increasingly feeling pain which is odd as mostly it is numb.
I got back to Stortford and had to take a cab. Took pain-killers, planned my strategy and slept. Did the dogs and ponies early and phoned Miss Benyon’s clinic. The woman on reception told me the first port of call was always my GP. I said the GP would either a.) prescribe the wrong antibiotics and I would die from a galloping infection, or b.) after I had waited for three hours to see someone, would obviously send me to Addenbrooke’s. But by then it might be too late in the day to see someone and I would die from a galloping infection.
She said, ‘Ah but! You might not have an infection, you see, so you have to go to the GP.’
I said, ‘Ah yes, but! I know I have an infection, because my breast is painful and red and I am feverish.’
She said, ‘You have to go to your GP.’
I am proud to say I have learnt some vital lessons in my life, one of them being ‘Trust Your Instinct,’ so I did not go to my GP. I phoned the Breast Unit instead. The Breast Care Nurse, Lisa, got back straight away and said, ‘Sounds serious. Come in immediately.’ Thank God.
I sat in a little cubicle in the Plastic Surgery Unit. After a bit of a look, they called other people who came and had a bit of a look. Then, Miss Benyon turned up. Oh swoon. What a delightful shock. She said I was absolutely right to have gone straight there and that I’d have to stay in for around four days for iv antibios! I was not expecting that. If I had I would have (oops I keep wanting to say ‘would of’ like Shardonnay) packed some knickers. It’s very odd to be whisked from whatever is your complicated, colourful tapestry of a life so quickly into a world of blues, greys and calm precision.
I was put back on the same ward I was in in August. I very quickly tuned into the fact that the doctors all seemed to be a) Gorjuss! b) Greek! So I had some lovely conversations in Greek about the economic crisis and Lefkada, Thessaloniki and the University there. I was put on a drip of strong antibiotics for two hours twice a day. Managed to phone Bash, Claire, Janet and Karen-at-the-ponies and organise care of animals.
Fred was in Paris when all this happened, but Gwanny and Grampa came that first night with newspaper cuttings thank God, as I was already so bored out of my tiny mind I was reading the toothpaste tube again and again.
The most thrilling bit is that so far I have got to see Miss Benyon five times in three days, once in her soft green operating garb and once in the bathroom! The first time she drew a black line around the red patch. She came to see me at 7pm on Thursday evening as the infection had spread. She had just been operating on a thirty-eight-week-old baby aahh bleeees. She drew a dotted black line around the scarily galloping red patch and said I needed another antibiotic that kills everything. She impressed upon me that I was not allowed to drink gin if the Gin Club came!
My neighbours in the ward were: a Lithuanian girl with horrendous tonsillitis that looked like it had almost killed her, a sweet woman with a massive scar on her throat with a funny jokey husband, and a mental painkiller addict. The nurses would say again and again, ‘You can’t have more, you only just had some.’ She got more and more arsey about it. She phoned her husband all the bloody time in the middle of the night. ‘Bring me some fags,’ she rasped, ‘and my painkillers, they won’t give me any.’ On Thursday they asked her what pain relief she normally took at home. She rattled off the four or five syllable names of three drugs I’ve never heard of. This would not have seemed so suspicious if she had also been able to rattle off the names of her various conditions! Thursday night she said she were gonna make a formal complaint and make sure that bitch who refused her painkillers lost her job. By three in the morning her husband had come and she stormed out. Ooh, bit of drama.
A new lady, Carol, is in her space now, same problem as me but only two weeks since her latissimus dorsi (same as mine) op, as opposed to my eight months. Her infection meant the implant had had to be taken out and put in again. She’s wonderful. As she got pushed in on her bed, fresh from theatre, she opened her arms and said, ‘Greetings, all!’ She’s a positive thinker. We get on like a house on fire.
On Friday Gwanny came with a book from her friend Lissi, then Janet with news of the animals, blueberries and a chocolate rabbit, then the Gin Club with gin (pas pour moi) and chocolate, biscuits, grapes. Joy and Rapture, all of it. Tried to keep noise down, but it got a bit riotous, especially when a woman in soft green garb turned up in the corridor and from the back looked like….could it be?…Miss Benyon? The Gin Club’s eyes were wide with excitement. ‘Don’t say anything embarrassing,’ I hissed. Then, ‘Oh, it’s not her.’ We deflated like a bouncy castle what’s had a great big needle (ooh, phallic image no doubt) inserted in it.
So, just when I thought the fun must be winding down, Barney arrived for a good old chat. His eyes lit up when he saw the Gin Club but unfortunately they had finished all the gin. Claire offered him a tonic, but it doesn’t really do it for him.
Miss Benyon must have gone home for the weekend. No one got to see her. Sigh. (Still, I want to keep her to myself really.)
Oh, God, I’ve just realised something. I am bored of being myself. I want to be Shardonnay.
The antibios have been giving me some quite good visuals though. Rows of garish Punch and Judy faces with big cheeks and pointy hats. Ghoul masks looming out of grey. Even with my eyes open I look out at the grey sky and see black equidistant dots everywhere spiralling randomly right and left.
This morning, Saturday, one of the drop-dead handsome doctors asked me ‘Has Miss Benyon talked to you about discharge?’
I said, with dignity, ‘We do not talk about things like that! Our relationship is far more ethereal.’
He laughed. He was talking about the fact I can probably go home tomorrow. Oh, shame. I tell you, I become institutionalised extremely fast. Love the routine of it. Love all the characters. Am fascinated by the blood-pressure machine. Love the fact the Lithuanian girl is chatting away in Russian to one of the cleaners. Love the fact Arulesh came to visit on the train. Most of all, I love the broccoli in cheese sauce and the apple crumble and custard.
Now I have made you all jells, I will give the computer to Fred to take home and go and watch another movie. Have (re)watched Tintin, Burn after Reading, Shakespeare in Love, Hot Fuzz and am going to watch Cowboys and Aliens.
(Ha ha. Claire just texted to say she has poo-picking elbow.)