Wednesday, 22 May 2013
A long day today. I had to be there by 9 to have a blood test, which proved a nightmare as my line wasn't working properly. In the end I got stabbed in the arm.
Whilst waiting in the oncology reception, my dear friend S came in for a blood transfusion, guided gently, gingerly, in her wheelchair, by her loving husband. In my usual bossy way, I took them through tot he Day Unit, checked them in and dispatched them to a bed. I then went in to my oncology appointment - good news - apparently, according to my blood tests, I have never been in such good shape - and back to the Day Unit to sit with S.
I spent a lot of time shooting the breeze with her and her HWISO. I told them about our weekend experience of the extraordinary Weird and Wonderful Wood Fair, at Haughley Park. Is it only me that comes over all funny peculiar at the smell of patchouli oil? We talked about the children and about exams and how no one enjoys school anymore. We gossiped about friends and all the time, I held one hand and her h held the other. Sometimes our eyes met over her dozing form and I wanted to cry.
My oncologist came to see her. In a bizarrely English way, I formally introduced them.
"This is K W, my oncologist," I said. "This is my very dear friend, S.....and her HWISO"
What was I doing? Did I expect them to shake hands and start talking about the weather? Probably. Preferably.
S was very drugged up and very tired. It is a matter of weeks now. I was in the peculiar position of trying to gauge whether they wanted to talk about her dying or whether they just want a distraction from the terrible reality of death?
I opted for the latter option. I am SO English.
I told them the story of my mother being buried in a wicker coffin. She was a great fan of Fortnum & Mason's hampers in her lifetime and her house had many wicker hampers with F&M emblazoned along the side - we all have at least one of varying size. My brothers and I got church giggles at the graveside, when one of us (I suspect T) suggested we should spray paint F&M on the side of the hamper she was being buried in. It made us smile and would have made Mum laugh.
I slept a lot this afternoon and when it was time for me to leave, I went and tenderly kissed S's hand and her forehead and told her how much I loved her. She smiled and squeezed my hand, without opening her eyes. I was glad she didn't wake up to say something because I want her to save every ounce of strength to talk to her HWISO and her children.
Staring death in the face is very sobering. I admire the staff on the MacMillan ward even more now. They face it every day, with cool, calm professionalism. They also manage kindness and, most importantly, a bit of humour. Bless them.