We Thought it was All Over
Further experiences with cancer and the NHS (written in 2020)
Neil fiddles with the computer, moves the mouse around, peers at the screen. "Mmm..." He stood, "if we go in here for a minute or two." He ushered me into small room next to the one we were sitting. He examined my chest. Then it was back in front of the computer on his desk, he swung it round so we could see the screen. He pointed at it and said, "That's the CT scan you had and that's your right lung. See that white spot at the top? That showed up last year when you had the CT scan, remember?"
I nodded, yes, I remembered. I had also had a chest x-ray after the surgery because I had developed a cough that was keeping me awake at night and they had sent me to, 'have look.'
"I doesn't seem to have got any bigger,' said Niel, " but I'll put you on a course of penicillin and to be on the safe side I'll arrange for you to have a check up with the respiratory people. Okay"
THURSDAY16TH APRIL 2019
About three weeks later Heather and I are once again sitting on hard plastic chairs in a waiting room of East Surrey Hospital. There were eight or nine other patients there. A notice next to the reception desk told us: 'Dr Nimako ia running thirty minutes late.' I look for the letter that came from the hospital, "Is that who we are seeing? I asked, Heather nodded.
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 years bowel cancer I hadn't set foot in a hospital for seventy years. Now it seems to have become a regular occurance. But I am now in my eighties and I suppose, and I say this reluctantly, I should expect it. The trouble is I haven't expected it. I think I thought I would carry on as normal, feeling fine, in good health, active, enjoying retirement and that's the way it would stay into my nineties and then...? Well, slip quietly away, hopefully, the way the Royals do - peacefully in my sleep.
My name is called, a young lady, attractive, in her twenties. She asks us to follow her and we are led into 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 gave it up 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 scan and studies it for a while and then points to a whitish area at the top of my right lung.
"I think the best thing we can do now is for you to have a biopsy."
"Yes, we take a sample and it will tell us if it is 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 looked at Heather, "We are going out to our place in Florida next Friday. We'll be away for six weeks."
There is a short silence. Dr Nimako said, "Well it's up to you. What date will you be back?"
"We're back on the 2nd of May, Doctor." Heather said.
He looked 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 between now and decide to have the biopsy on the 22nd call us."
`'Will six weeks make a difference?" I asked.
"Well," he hesitated, "it doesn't seem to have grown since August, so perhaps not."
"Okay, well,.. I'll go for the 3rd of May, 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
I sat with Heather again in the waiting room of the X-ray department of East Surrey Hospital reading the paper-work that accompanied the appointment instructions. "Do not eat anything from midnight ... drink plenty of water... Please arrange for someone to collect you following your discharge..."
A nurse appeared, smiling, foreign accent, East European I guessed, mid thirties.
"Mr Thornhill? I will weigh you, okay?"
We walked to a small cubicle, and she asked my date of birth. I told her and stood on the escales. After measuring my height, she took my blood pressure.
I returned to the waiting area. It wasn't crowded. No more than a dozen of us sat there. Each looking bored. There was 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 passing by pushing wheelchairs with elderly people slumped untidily in them.
"I've put on weight." I tell Heather, "I'm not too pleased about that."
"Better than losing it in your condition, isn't it?"
Never thought of that.
The actual biopsy took about half an hour. Dr Nimako warned me before he started the procedure that he might accidently touch one of my ribs,"And that might cause some discomfort."
He did. When he said 'discomfort' what he meant was pain.
Ir hurt like hell. Apart from that the procedure wasn't too bad. After several minutes he said, "I've taken a few samples, I think that will be enough."
THURSDAY 16TH MAY 2020.
We get the result of the bioply today. So it's East Surrey Hoapital again. Dr Nimako is sitting by his computer moving a mouse about. We all shake hands. There is a short silence.
Then:"Well, Mr Thornhill, we have the results of the biopsy and I'm afraid it's not good news. You have lung cancer..."
MORE TO COME. LATER.