Another year had rolled by. It was time for my yearly check in with the Prof at the Royal Marsden. The Royal Marsden has hospitals at two sites. The larger of the hospitals is about fifteen miles from London in Sutton. The other hospital, where the Prof lives is in Chelsea in central London.
Chelsea is famous for two things. Their all-conquering Premier League football team and the TV show Made in Chelsea. I have a confession. I have never seen Made in Chelsea. From what I can gather it’s a scripted reality programme documenting the lives of various rich, young people who live in Chelsea. These people have weird names like Binky and Minnie and even more bonkers love lives. I try to avoid programmes like this. It’s not from a snobby point of view. It’s because I know I will get completely hooked on Binky’s latest palaver that I will forget to get on with my own life.
I arrived at the Marsden and went to check in. The waiting room at the Marsden is by far the worse waiting I have been in. And I have been in a lot of waiting rooms. Of course, it was packed with everyone eyeing everyone else suspiciously. I went through the pre-flight checks with the receptionist after which she told me to go to small waiting room.
“Small waiting room?”
“Yes. It’s just down the corridor, on the left.”
Down the corridor I went becoming more anxious the further I went. Finally, there was an open door.
“Urm… is this the small waiting room?”
I was assured it was and sat down. I looked at my fellow compadres and knew I was in the right place. Opposite me was a man, wearing a black eye patch on his right eye, with his wife. Next to them was another man with a droopy mouth like mine. Finally, next to me was another couple with another man with an eye patch. Yes, these were my people.
We sat there flicking through old OK magazines when the man opposite gasped. The Prof appeared and quickly went into the room opposite accompanied by two flustered looking registrars. No minions today. We were all going to get the real deal.
After a while, the woman next to me started huffing. She was reading an OK magazine about Cheryl Cole/Fernandez Versini/ Tweedy and Liam One Direction’s marvellous life. It obviously wasn’t much cop. She began whispering angrily at her husband. He just nodded and folded his arms.
A nurse appeared in the doorway.
The daggered looks I got was unreal. This had broken all waiting room protocol. I was last in and first out! Outrageous! I followed the nurse out from the glares and she led to me another room.
“Professor H will see you shortly.”
I sat and started fiddling with my phone. It had got to fifteen minutes and still no sign. I What’s App-ed my family. Should I go and say something? NO came the reply from my sister, who worked in the NHS. That is a big no-no. It would only delay them further as they were probably reading my notes. I sighed and began to read the kilograms to imperial conversion weight chart on the wall.
After another ten minutes, the Prof rushed in with his two minions. The two minions turned out to be two oncologists from Spain. They seemed genuinely interested in my case. We had a chat, and all was good.
“In my opinion I think if it aint broke don’t fix it eh?” said the Prof looking at the two bewildered medics.
“What I mean is that if the Herceptin is working, it would be madness to stop it. You are very lucky Anna. If you presented to me now, there is no way you would get the funding for this.”
I was a bit taken aback by this. You like to think that life in five years would be better than life now. When it comes to health care, it’s more nuanced. Sure, there have been huge advances. People are living longer than before. The changes in cancer treatment and the research in finding new drugs and other medication is staggering. This is all amazing but it’s the distribution of these treatments where its going backwards. Who is responsible for that? Is it the state or the individual? I know the Prof would like to treat as many people as he could, whether they be a rich, hedge fund manager or an elderly former miner. All should be equal as far as he is concerned. But pure economics doesn’t work like that. It’s all about supply and demand. Not many people have an HER2 positive tumour in their head like me so there isn’t the funding. This model fails to acknowledge that it’s because of the treatment, I have been a fully functional member of society for the last five years. I have also been paying taxes for that long too. The brutal truth, is if it wasn’t for the treatment, I would be dead.
The Prof could tell I was looking anxious.
“Look. You are doing really well. I don’t think you need to make another appointment to see me next year. Just call my secretary as and when you need to see me.”
He smiled, bid farewell and left the room. Weirdly this is a good thing. This means that he believes that the treatment that I’m on will be fine at least for another year. I smiled as I made my way to the V&A for my yearly mooch around before my train back to Nottingham. Maybe things weren’t that bad after all.