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Thursday 16 May 2013
Impressions of the chemo outpatient ward
It was busy yesterday. I didn't get to sit next to M, the lovely lady in her 80's who has blood transfusions every Wednesday. She is tiny, white haired, bird like, exquisitely polite, charming and a favourite with all the nurses. She gets brought in by her lovely, round, jolly husband every week and dropped off. Her treatment takes about 6 hours and I tend to jump up and down getting her a drink (she likes orange squash) and showing her funny pictures in the paper - we particularly like the one of Boris on a horse last week. She likes to sit by the window and watch the comings and goings from the Rainbow Ward (the children's ward) which is next door to us (a particularly strange piece of planning?).
In the end I sat next door to the very beautiful J. J has taken the step of shaving off all her hair and her huge blue eyes are magnified a thousand times. She looks like Erin O Connor.
J is 29. Her Mum sits with her all morning and her dad drives 5 hours from Blackpool to be with her on chemo day for the afternoon and evening. She is facing a long road - her reconstructive surgery won't be until this time next year. In the meantime, she is facing life as a single (her boyfriend dumped her after the first bout of chemo - bastard. Making voodoo dolls!), lopsided, scarred, young woman who has had a really shitty diagnosis and an even shittier treatment regime.
I looked at her parents (as I nagged her to eat! Old habits die hard) and saw two loving parents, united in grief and fortitude. For the most part, they just sat there, uncertain of what to say or do, except take huge interest in her treatment regime and tell her she was beautiful. My heart broke for them.
I did my usual "entertaining the troops" bit. We found common ground in the shortcomings of the Daily Fail. The mum works with youth offenders locally and her dad is retired. We talked a lot about dogs. They have 5! We generally shot the breeze and I banged on a lot about the importance of nutrition. They had been to see one of those charlatan unregistered nutritionist. I did have to laugh about the "method" of diagnosis. Apparently, vials were placed in the tummy button and then the right arm was raised. If there was no resistance, it apparently meant the patient was "allergic" to whatever was in the vial - tuna, oranges, dairy - yeah right! My blood turned cold but luckily, they had seen through this particular piece of "money for old rope" and took no notice.
I did 'fess up to my particular interest in nutrition and did point out that J might need to "grow" her behind over the next year for the reconstruction. She wailed at me "Great. Bald. Single. AND Fat. Anything else?" I wanted to cry.