WE THOUGHT IT WAS ALL OVER...
It was the 13th of February, but at least it wasn't a Friday - not that I'm superstitious - it was a Wednesday if I recall and it was the date this whole thing started up again. I went to East Surrey Hospital for a CT scan, arranged months before by my surgeon, Neil Smith, prior to my seeing him for a routine check-up subsequent to the bowl cancer surgery I'd had in August. The surgery was successful, "I don't think there is a real need, but, with your permission I will keep an eye on you - a check-up every six months, is that okay?" Neil said to me when I had last seen him a couple of weeks after being discharged .
Of course it was. Yes, fine.
So, I had the CT scan on February the 13th. A Wednesday.
Never liked Wednesdays. Never liked February.
Anyroad - as they say in the North - It was down to East Surrey Hospitlal. Again. For anotherscan: "Breath in...Hold your breath..." "Keep still..."
So, it's a few days later and, with Heather, I am sitting in Crawley Hospital waiting to see Neil Smith. I'm not worried, there are no concerns in my head, everything is fine, They told me it would take three months to get over the surgery, which it probably did, but now I'm back to normal, walking, cycling, enjoying. We are joining Cyril at our place in Florida in March. Six weeks in the sun, relaxing, taking it easy; life is good, everything is fine, Just a bit of a cough.
"Good to see you again, sit down, make yourself comfortable," Mr Smith, his usual charming self, smiling, welcomes us, introduces a girl, a teenager, student, here for work experience. "Okay," he says, "how are you?"
"Fine," I say, "no problems, just a bit of a cough which seems to be hanging around but apart from that..."
"I wanted him to go to see his doctor about that but..." Heather says.
Neil fiddles with the computer, moves the mouse, peers at the screen. "Mmm... " He stands, "If we just go in here for a minute or two, " and ushers me into a small side room, where he examine my chest. Then it's back in front of the computer and he swings it round so we can see the screen and he points at it and says, "That's the CT scan you had, that's your right lung, see that white spot there, at the top? That showed up when you had the CT scan last year, remember?"
I nodded. Yes, I remembered. I had also had a chest X-ray just after the surgery because I had developed a cough which was keeping me awake at night and they had sent me for an X-ray to 'have a look.'
"It doesn't seem to have got any bigger," Neil says, " but... I think I'll put you on a course of penicillin which may clear it and to be on the safe side I'll arrange for you to have a check up with the respiratory people. Okay?"
WEDNESDAY 6TH MARCH 2019
Heather and I sit on hard plastic stools in a waiting room of East Surrey Hospital. There are eight or nine other patients here. A notice board next to the reception desk tells us: 'Dr Nimako is running 30 minutes late.' "Is that who we are seeing?" I ask. She nods.
I can't get used to this - sitting in hospitals, waiting to be looked at, poked, X-rayed. questioned, scanned, examined and various other personal invasions. Up to last year's bowel cancer - now clear of I have been told - I hadn't set foot. in a hospital, apart from visiting ill friends and relatives, for seventy years. Now it seems to have become a regular occurance, but I am now in my eighties and I should have expected it, but I didn't. I think I thought I would just carry on as normal, feeling fine, in good health, active, enjoying retirement and that's the way it would stay until I was into my nineties and then...? Well, die peacefully in my sleep, perhaps, the way royalty does.
My name is called. A young lady, attractive, in her twenties. She ask us to follow her and we are led into a small office, or maybe it's a small office-like room with three chairs and a computer. The lady introduces herself and I immediately forget her name. She asks if I have ever smoked and I tell her yes but I stopped over forty years ago. She shrugs her shoulders in a gesture of dismissal, smiles and says, "Oh well, that's okay then."She makes small talk for a while and then Dr Nimako comes in, greets us and, sits by the computer and pulls up the last CTscan I had, studies it for a while and then and points to the whiteish area at the top of my right lung.
" I think the best thing we can do now is for you to have a biopsy to see exactly what this is." he says.
"Yes, we take a sample and it will tells us if it's something nasty... or not. You would have to come in for a day, maybe stay overnight, though that isn't likely. We could have you in on the 22nd."
"The 22nd of May?' I look at Heather, "We are going out to our place in Florida next Friday, the 15th, we'll be away for six weeks."
There is a short silence. Dr Nimako says, "Well, it's up to you.What date will you be back?" He fiddles with the computer.
"We're back on the 2nd of May, Doctor," Heather says.
He looks up from the screen, "We could see you on the 3rd of May, but I suggest you go away, think about it, if you change your mind and decide to have the biopsy on the 22nd call us."
"Will six weeks make a difference?" I ask.
"Well," he hesitates, it doesn't seem to have grown since August, so perhaps not."
"Okay, well... I'll go for the 3rd of June, the day after we get back. But if I change my mind between now and next week I'll ring."
We all stand, shake hands.
"Hope we've done the right thing," I say to Heather as we drive home.
FRIDAY 3RD MAY 2019
'Do not eat anything from midnight...drink plenty of water... Please arrange for someone to collect you following your discharge...' I sit with Heather again in the waiting room of the X-Ray department of East Surrey Hospital and read the paperwork that accompanied the the appointment instructions. A nurse appears, smiling, foreign accent, east European, I would guess, mid thirties. "Mr Thornhill? I will weigh you, okay?"
We walk to a small cubicle, and she says,"What is your date of birth, Mr Thornhill?" I tell her. I stand on the scales, she measures my hight and takes my blood pressure. I return to the waiting area. It isn't crowded. No more than a dozen of us sit here, each looking bored. There is a constant flow of people walking through the area: Nurses hurrying to somewhere else, patients wandering through and looking lost, doctors on important missions, porters pushing wheel chairs containing slumped elderly people.
"I've put on weight." I tell Heather, "six pounds." I'm not too pleased about that."
"It's better than losing it in your condition, isn't it?"
I have to agree.
A few more minutes go by and we are ushered into the same little office we were in a few weeks ago. Dr Nimako sits by a computer moving a mouse about. We all shake hands. There is a short silence.
Then: "Well, we have the results of the biopsy and I'm afraid it's not good news. You have lung cancer, but it's operable but before we get to that I think you should have a lung function test and a pet-scan and we'll include a brain scan to make sure nothing has spread, okay? After that You won't see me again but we'll arrange for you to see the surgeon, Mr Hunt , and that will be at St Georges's hospital in London and he will arrange everything for you."