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Thursday 18 July 2013
Respecting your elders
I was whiling away some time in the Day Unit, waiting for the lovely Dr Emily (she of the face of an 18 year old) to come and see me and prescribe antibiotics. In came two ladies who were, it is fair to say, a generation older than me. We got chatting. One lady was in for the first time, obviously nervous and worried, but putting a brave, jolly, "this is how we won the war" face on it all. She wanted to know all the answers that I couldn't give her like how long would it take to have the chemo, how would she feel, would her hair fall out?
She came in with her son, who was about my age, who obviously adored his mother. She did that mother thing of telling him to go away and listen to the cricket, she would be fine. I felt for him, while he tried to gently swat away his mother's fussing and compute the whole "It's my turn to look after you now, daft bat" relationship switch that happens, when a parent becomes ill.
I couldn't answer her questions and felt sad when I had to tell her that I wasn't going to win this particular battle. I just came out and said it when asked. I didn't want to, not for my sake, but because I didn't want to take away the tiniest bit of hope from her and her son.
For us patients, the cattle to slaughter process just rolls along carrying us with it. For those who have to stand by and watch the needles and the poisons and accept that they can do nothing but watch, it is hard. Sometimes too hard. I won't let HWISO come to chemo. He doesn't need to watch me stuck with needles and the fight we have to extract even small amounts of blood from collapsed veins. He doesn't need to watch the drip drip drip of colourless poison or hear the ping of the machine announcing that I am "full up" today. He doesn't need to see the fear in other carers' eyes or hear the sometimes pitiful hope in the face of disaster. He doesn't need to watch blood transfusions for the helpless or listen to the intimate details of others' illnesses and treatments.
What he could do with is the nurses - their relentless dogged determination to not let anyone down, to comfort and cajole, to nurture and to continue to do one of the hardest jobs in the world with grace, humour and dignity. Bottling their essence would be a unique gift to the world.
A special shout out to the lovely Helen, who donned her gloves and remembered her specs to help with the blood leeching today. It is not her normal job but, once challenged, she rose magnificently to the occasion and giggled charmingly, which made it a less harrowing experience than it should have been.
She also LOVED the t-shirt.
Thankfully, unlike the US, I can't get "sacked" by the NHS for wearing it......