Escape to the country. I’ve always hated that programme. The idea behind it is that some couple suddenly decide that city life is so much strain for them that the only option for them is to move house and well, escape to the country. Whether the country wants them or not…
I was watching this particular episode on a 20 inch TV, mounted high in a corner of the outpatient waiting room of the ENT department. Someone had wisely had put the volume on mute so I was squinting at the subtitles, trying to follow Brian and Pauline’s odyssey into the “country”. Then I noticed that a nurse had started puffing.
“For the last time… ANNA READ!”
Oooppss! I poked my husband awake in his ribs with my elbow and stood up. The nurse took us both into a small white room.
“ We need to weigh you…”
She just shrugged. I went on the scales and thank the Lord it was in kilograms. I have never really understood kilograms. Anyway the scales said a number, the nurse wrote it down without any expression to say if the number was good or bad and off to the waiting room we returned.
“Grumble grumble…” grumbled my husband.
My husband and I shuffled forward.
“Please… Sit here. Mr C will call you”
This was said by a different nurse to the first. She was holding a clipboard and gave us both a sympathetic smile. We sat down on chairs that were in a line.
“It’s a bit like waiting to see the head master isn’t it?”
“ Well, we’ll probably be in and out quite quick as he said it was just a follow up didn’t he?”
“ Here’s hoping. Chinese buffet in town later eh?”
The door opened.
“Ah… Anna. Good to see you again. Sorry about the delay. Please come in…”
In we walked and Mr C directed me to a chair directly opposite him. My husband was directed to a chair to my right. It was at quite an awkward distance. Just a bit too far away. I looked up and along the back wall were one, two, three, four, five doctors. Six if you count Mr C. Standing behind my husband were three women. Two were nurses, one of whom had told us where to sit, and another woman with short bobbed brown hair who was now holding the clipboard.
Mr C turned my chair in such a way that I could no longer see my husband, but now I could only see him.
“ I’m afraid it’s a carcinoma…”
Carcinoma? Now where have I heard that word before?
I turned to my husband for some clarification and I noticed that he had stood up and was moving his chair closer to mine. He then held my right hand very tightly.
Mr C carried on describing something very quickly and I could only pick up certain words.
“It’s in one of your salivary glands…”
“We need to operate…”
“ Six weeks of radiotherapy…”
But I was still struggling with carcinoma. Then it dawned on me. Hang about is that cancer?
So I asked Mr C:
“Is it cancer?”
“ Umm… yes, the full name for what you have is adenocarcinoma which started to form near your paratoid gland. It’s quite rare and can be quite aggressive.”
That’s when I left myself. It all started to feel that it wasn’t happening to me. It felt like I was watching a film and that I was the lead actress.
“ So when will the operation be?” asked my husband while gripping onto my hand.
Then I noticed something about the five doctors lined up in front of me. It looked like that Mr C was the most senior and then behind him was the next senior, all the way down to the junior doctor at the end. The junior doctor gave me a “you are soooo brave!” kind of a smile. I couldn’t see how I was brave. I just had a tumour in my salivary gland that was all.
Mr C then produced a big diary looking book and dates were discussed. Finally a date was agreed on and Mr C explained for a second time what was going to happen.
The first thing I would have is a PET scan to see if the cancer had spread. After that I would have an operation to remove the tumour. Then after that I would be referred to an oncologist and start six weeks of intense radiotherapy to remove any cancer cells that hadn’t been removed from the operation.
He then stood up and walked towards the women with the clipboard and brown bobbed hair.
“This is Melissa. She is our cancer care nurse in the ENT department. If you have any questions please discuss them with her and I’ll see you next week to discuss your PET scan results. I also need another blood sample from you…”
“ I’ll take it!” said the “you are soooo brave” junior doctor.
“OK have your bloods done and then come back to reception to see Melissa.”
We both thanked him and left the room with the junior doctor. I whispered to my husband.
“ I didn’t catch the date of the operation.”
“It’s on 19th January. My birthday remember?”
I gasped and squeezed my husband’s hand. The start of the great escape had begun…