The Bexley Wing at St James (‘Jimmy’s’) is recent and benefits from space-age high ceilings and spacious arenas.   The wide, long foyer features eye-candy contemporary pictures and a cafe spilling out pavement style   It specialises in oncology and up on the first floor are the four consultation suites and the chemo day-care room, very large – could be a small ballroom – separated off into four smaller rooms by dividers.   In each unit there are ten or so adjustable armchairs, pleasantly spaced.   It bore the atmosphere of an up-market ladies’ hairdresser.

My appointment time for my first treatment was 8.30 a.m. – 8.30 p.m. 24th August, although it was made clear that it was unlikely to last that long. We had been wondering what treatment could possibly take twelve hours.   We were warmly greeted and I settled into my capacious chair with swing-table and Anthea alongside equally comfortable.   We met the senior nurse, Jacques, … black, shaven-headed, fit, smallish, gentle, patient, calm … and he explained what would happen in detail:

   2 hours: saline drip hydration

   Half hour: anti-sickness medication

   Half hour: cleaning the kidneys and prompting a pee

   3 hours: chemo

   2 hours: saline hydration

   Half hour:   anti-sickness medication

All the above are administrated via drip and canula into the back of my left hand.

Mid-morning a woman came round offering lunch menus on the same impressive double-sided A4 I’d seen before.

   -Hi – I’m Christine.

   -You OK with Chris?

   -You can call me anything so long as you don’t call me too early in the morning.

Chris was 35 or so, slim, dark eyes, dark hair, fizzing with energy, always looking for a laugh.   I said I was a veggie and she heartily recommended the egg mayonnaise salad and she turned out to be absolutely right.

I was the only patient for most of the morning until someone else turned up.   As I said to Jacques ‘I’m glad to see another patient: for a while back there I was wondering what they knew that I didn’t know’.   The room later filled with shorter term patients.

In the course of the afternoon two Macmillan volunteers visited, both middle-aged women, plump, and jolly.   The first one brought a mannequin head with a head scarf on.   She looked at me apologetically: ‘Just for the females I’m afraid’.   ‘Really’, I said, ‘I reckon I’d look pretty in one of those’.   The scarf was for women who had lost their hair.   The second woman had pamphlets and asked if we were planning a holiday.   ‘Next March.’   ‘Right.   Watch insurance.   The premiums’ll go through the roof.   There’s a company here who won’t rip you off.’   Very helpful.

We left at 6.30 and Jacques gave me a course of anti-sickness pills.   I left with a slight feeling of apprehension at the civil war that was raging inside me, but the dominant feeling was – At last … I’m on the attack.

08-Cancer Diary


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