Back to Bexley Wing with its high ceilings, wide open spaces, and eye-candy contemporary artwork.   One disturbing sight around the Oncology Unit is the number of young people, often in wheelchairs, emaciated, wan, nearly bald.

Today’s visit (Thursday 13th September) involved another pre-assessment (all OK for tomorrow’s all-day chemo session) and a visit to the ‘Nuclear’ Unit.   This unfortunately named section shot some kinda radio-active stuff through my veins to see whether my kidneys coped with it OK. (Couldn’t they have done it with fruit juice?) The injection took place mid- morning and then there were two blood tests at 11.50 and 13.50 to check on kidney function.   (Later … all OK.)

I wonder if there are cancer archetypes in the making.   Years ago a radio play featured ‘Cancer Man’ – a terminally ill, fearless assassin … ‘Cancer Man’s coming for you’.   There was a terminal cancer victim in a pub we used to go to … not long to live … 40-odd.   He would get drunk and rant his rage noisily.   A woman, almost bald save for wisps of grey hair … wasting away …pale … smiling.

Friday 14th September: 08.30-1730

  • 2 hours’ hydration
  • 3 different anti-sickness drugs           I forgot to note all the times but the four I        
  • 3 hours’ chemo                                   forgot added up to 2 hours.
  • Diuretic
  • Chemo
  • 2 hours’ hydration
  • Anti-sickness

Sitting opposite me during the afternoon of my all-day was ‘Stephen’.   (Our names are chalked on a board over our chairs.) 50-odd, slim, smallish, friendly.   We swapped stories … the first time I’ve done that.   He’s at the end of his treatment for cancer of the oesophagus.   They removed the oesophagus and replaced it by moving his stomach up to where the oesophagus used to be.   ‘How do you eat?’   ‘Little and often.’ We’d discussed the end of our respective treatments and, as I left, we wished each other a Merry Christmas.

I’d been looking forward to giving lunch to an old friend recently – someone I feel safe with.   When it came to it, I spent her visit time in bed and didn’t meet her.   This surprised and disappointed me.   I’m not exactly delighted with the reasons but here they are … and they’re true:

– I was so tired that the prospect of making conversation was too demanding.

– I was self-conscious.

– I was embarrassed.

– I’d planned to bake a pizza for lunch. In a chemo pamphlet I’d been advised to regularly disinfect the toilet seat.   To avoid spreading poison, I assume.   It occurred to me that our guest might not want to eat a pizza which had been intimately kneaded by a chemo patient.   I felt like a leper.

It’s occurred to me that readers who can’t see me might be imagining a fairly weird appearance … perhaps some mix of Ben Gunn and Stephen Hawking. Our youngest, Anna, on a visit, said to Anthea how relaxed and normal I was.   (There’s a first time for everything!)

Having cancer isn’t a threat: it’s an opportunity.


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