19/11/15- Hospital: I’m an old fashioned girl at heart and so when I wear tights I wear ‘tight’s pants’. ‘Tight’s pants’ are pants that you wear over your tights to keep your tights up!
Now, I have this great pair of tight’s pants-perfect for purpose. Full in form thus substantial enough to win any battle with a pair of wayward tights who think it amusing to sneak down my thighs and collect in wrinkles and folds (much like those of a rhinoceros) around my knees, whilst I’m out and about in public places and unable to rectify the situation.
My tight’s pants are Christmas pants! They comprise a modest black background with a fabulous sprinkling of festive glitz! In glittering gold font they confidently and proudly proclaim the names of Santa’s reindeer including of course in bold shimmering red letters, the most famous of them all-Rudolph!
Now the thing about tight’s pants is that they are not about glamour. They are not frivolous or flirty, it’s not their thing -they’re pretty much the ‘bouncer’ of the pants drawer. Big, strong and functional. So although they perform an invaluable job, they are supposed to stay modestly and quietly in the shadows. Never to be seen by anyone else…
Today is the day that I meet with my oncologist for the first time.
Today is the day that I find out more about this next treatment stage.
Today is the day that chemotherapy and I become a little better acquainted.
…and the truth is…I think maybe this one scares me most of all. This is the one that puts the scary big C in Cancer.
Unlike all the appointments that have gone before, for this one I am unprepared. I simply do not want to go.
Until now, I have maintained a level of calm and control over my presentation at my appointments.
Until now, I have maintained a dignified countenance.
Until now, I have not fallen spectacularly apart.
But today I feel afraid.
I feel weak.
I feel tearful.
I find myself moping around on the sofa feeling sorry for myself. Self indulgently I spend the morning blubbing!
I guess the waiting has taken its toll. Its hard to sustain a positive mental attitude indefinitely, particularly in the face of the constant unknown limboland that is cancer treatment-it has disarmed and disempowered me.
Texts and calls lay ignored on my coffee table as I lay pathetically on the sofa, watching the time ebb away, focussing on nothing.
“Get up”-I think quietly from somewhere inside myself. “Get Up” I utter in my most sympathetic yet encouraging tone. “GET UP. GET UP. GET UP!!!” I holler, finally jolting myself out of my pre-chemo-coma and jump starting the heart of my hope.
Following my own instructions I drag myself from my ‘mardy’ couch to hurriedly shower and dress and because I’ve ‘faffed’ and ‘fannied’ about all morning indulging my malaise I’m now running very late for my appointment and in no time my lift arrives.
I sit in a new waiting room.
My new room for waiting looks out on to a grim drizzled grey afternoon. Reflecting my mood perfectly. I feel so unlike me and I don’t care much for this version of myself at all! Face like a wet weekend- I’d give myself a bloody good shake if I could be bothered!!!
My malingering is interrupted by the entrance of a petite, fuchsia and black, Muppet-type Onesie clad woman. She has a yellow bucket filled with jangling coins and beautiful eyes brim filled with tears.
Curious, I watch as she makes her way to a seat in the corner, close by.
I watch as she pulls down the hood of her Onesie brushing back her pony-tailed hair with the flat of her hand.
I watch as she attempts to steady and gather herself with deep even breaths.
I watch as she dismisses falling tear drops from her cheeks with the back of her Muppet sleeve.
“Are you okay?…would you like some water?” I offer.
She declines the water but asks for a tissue-this I cannot help with but another waiting neighbour comes to her rescue.
My Muppet-bucket woman apologises over and over explaining that she’s collecting for Charity, been round the hospital over the last couple of days collecting too. She shares her own story of loved ones lost to cancer, father and recently her mother. She shares that being in the chemo room invoked a rush of memories, overwhelming her momentarily.
Again she apologises. She shares that she’s waiting to get her hair cut-she’s donating it for wig making, hoping it will help someone who might need it.
I want to cry. This time though, not for myself. This wonderful woman tiny in frame and large in heart is here giving her time to raise money and raise awareness but also to give of herself physically, to give her own beautiful hair to someone like me.
I’m humbled by her generosity and moved by the sincerity of her gesture. More than this though, the courage she demonstrates to come back to a place filled with painful memories so soon after her own loss reignites my own passion for the life I have.
Somewhere inside I feel my ‘fight’ stirring from it’s temporary slumber and although I know it has been weakened by lack of nurture I can feel its hunger.
Before I have any chance to contemplate further I’m being called to see my consultant only its not my consultant I get to see today.
Today I get to see one of my very busy consultant’s lovely assistants. Only I’m sorry to say that this lovely assistant is actually not so lovely at all. In fact, I don’t think it would be unkind of me to say that this lovely assistant probably completed her training at the ‘Gestapo School of Bedside Manner’.
In cold and clinical tone, devoid of any compassion, empathy or even a hint that she is sitting down to discuss with another sentient individual, one of life’s scariest experiences-my lovely assistant oncologist hits me with the long list of chemotherapy side effects.
Now I’ve done my research and I know about these things so I ‘attempt’ to clarify what I can use/do to minimise the symptoms. I use the word attempt because each time I begin to formulate my question, my lovely assistant oncologist incorrectly predicts what I want to know, answering instead the question she thinks I’m going to ask. I try again. I start to tell her that what she has just offered, I already know and what I actually want to ask is… at which point she again interrupts my flow in order to repeat, this time slightly louder and more firmly, the answer she has already provided to the question I haven’t asked!
We perform this ‘dance off’ for several minutes until eventually she realises that I’m not going to sit quietly while she rattles off her scripted list and I realise that she is not going to treat me like a human being with real thoughts, feelings and fears.
We have arrived at an impasse!
She turns to my file and throws out as a question or a statement, I’m not sure which “You’re on the clinical trial” I decide it must be a question, I can see in my file the letter to the oncologist from my surgeon which details the pathology of my cancer and discussions regarding whether I should stay on the clinical trial due to my reluctance for further surgery.
“Well I’m still on the trial at present but I may come off it after the chemotherapy because I’m not intending to have the lymph node surgery” I offer helpfully in response.
It becomes clear at this point that it was in fact, not a question, simply a statement of fact and as such my clarification throws her into some kind of apoplectic shock!
We now engage in a new dance off, also known as the ‘I know more than you do’ Tango, about the nature of the clinical trial.
Unsurprisingly to me yet it would appear a bit of a shocker to my lovely assistant oncologist-I win!!!
I have researched the clinical trial till I have all the facts-she concedes that she will have to check some of her ‘facts’ as she is not so sure now about the particulars of this specific trial.
Before I’ve had time to revel in my accomplishment she tells me she needs to see my wound.
This takes me by surprise-I hadn’t expected to be showing my mastectomy scar today. I’m caught off guard. I’m unprepared.
Slightly flummoxed by her ‘out of nowhere’ request, I fumble with my clothes and mumble more to myself than to her that I’ll have to take my dress off and if I had known I would have worn more accessible modesty maintaining clothing.
I feel suddenly vulnerable. Throughout this appointment faced with this seemingly uncaring, unfeeling woman I have stood my ground. Stood tall. Shown my strength, my knowledge, my humour. Shown her who I am. But now she has me up against the ropes, could things be any worse?
I try to stand firmly in my boots as I’m pulling my dress up over my head, bare chested now with tights up to my ribs.
Tights up to my ribs…
Sudden panic comes over me as I realise yes it could get worse.
Oh no…I daren’t look down…oh God please no. I close my eyes and my mind rushes back over this mornings hurried shower, the dressing
in haste, the running back and forth between my bedroom and the clothes airers to get my dress, my cardi, my…Please, please don’t let me be stood here now before this vile woman in nothing but my boots, my tights and my Rudolph pants…
My dress scrunched in my hand, head hung from the shame of it all I slowly open my eyes taking in first my boots, then my tights and finally my…PLAIN BLACK PANTS!!! Woohoo!!!
Then my mind replays that final moment where instead of wasting time I hadn’t got, to rush once more to the airers to get my tight’s pants, I had reached into my knicker drawer, pulling out some plain black pants to make do, thus leaving Rudolph and his fellow reindeer safely hanging on the airer having a well earned day of rest and at that moment the pieces of my life fall back into their rightful place.
Inwardly I thank my lucky stars whilst outwardly I smile the biggest smile knowing that all is well in my world again. As for Gestapo woman…well she can go…*??*!!**%*!!!