It started with a rude awakening. I forgot my husband had booked the day off so I dutifully set the alarm. The alarm buzzed. My husband swore. I reached for the headphones of my portable digital radio. I turned to Five Live. I like Five Live. It keeps me awake that sadly The Today programme on Radio Four often fails to do. In my semi-conscious state, I heard something being mentioned about the Cancer Drugs Fund. A report had been written saying it was a waste of money. The presenter said that if you had had experience of using the fund to text in. After about fifteen minutes, I slumbered out of bed and sent a text saying that I wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for the Cancer Drug Fund. I knew my parents, who listen to Five Live, would be travelling up in stage one of their trip to North Wales for my aunt’s 80th on that Saturday. I thought that if they read my text out, it might make the journey a bit more interesting.
I went downstairs and made my porridge. Then a phone call. Private number. Interesting. A harassed sounding researcher asked if I wouldn’t mind speaking on the radio about my experience. Crikey. I had to take the car for its annual service for nine. If I did the radio, it would be cutting it fine to get there on time. Sod the car. I agreed. I managed to contact my parents who were about to start on their odyssey to Wales and left a voicemail for my sis who had the audacity to be working. My husband carried on sleeping. The allotted moment came. I blundered my way through. After five minutes, it was all over and off to the garage I went.
At the garage, I was waiting for my husband to pick me up. I had invented an elaborate story as to why I was late, but the mechanic didn’t seem bothered. My husband has just arrived when my phone went. Another private number.
“Hello Anna. This is Tim from the Jeremy Vine Show on Radio 2. I heard you on Five Live and I was wondering if you would like to appear on the show to talk about the Cancer Drugs Fund…”
Crikey. We had a bit of a chat with my husband looking bewildered on what the hell was going on. Arrangements were made. He would phone on my landline at twelve and then I would address the nation. I relayed all this to a mildly bemused husband and awaited the phone call.
When we got home, I tried to keep myself busy by pottering around. But it was no good. I was a ball of nervous energy. Chill woman. Watch some naff telly. I switched on and tried to settle down in front of GP’s: Behind Closed Doors. It didn’t help.
11:57am. Landline rings. Deep breathe. It’s my father in law.
“We’ve been trawling through Jeremy Kyle and you don’t seem to be on…”
Good grief. Jeremy Vine on the radio NOT Jeremy Kyle on the telly. At least not for now anyway. Father in law apologies profusely and we hang up.
12:00pm. No phone call. 12:04pm. Still no phone call. 12:07pm. This is getting ridiculous. 12:09pm. Phone finally rings. It’s another Tim not the same one I spoke to earlier. I’m told to listen to the programme and speak when prompted. What follows next is a report that completely trashes the Cancer Drugs Fund. It outlines how many nurses could have been employed with the money wasted on it and other such stats. Blimey. This may be tougher that I thought. The Prof who helped to compile the report is interviewed. He weights his answers carefully and is not too judgemental. Then my moment comes. I relay my story and I’m struck how quiet it is. It feels like I’m talking to a void. I want to pause and say hello just to make sure someone if there. Jeremy asks a few annoying questions and states my age live to the nation. He then lines up the Prof to respond to my story. The Prof is a true gentleman and agrees with a lot of what I said. I agree with the Prof too because he knows far more about this kind of stuff than me. Also, when you are in my position, the more Profs on your side the better. Jeremy sounds a bit disappointed that we are not tearing into each other. But that’s the thing about cancer and illnesses in general. There is nothing like the prospect of your untimely death that somehow forces you to find a compromise with any medical professional that happen to stumble across.
It’s a relationship that works two ways. Medical bods also love meeting weird and complex patients. My neighbour gave me some good advice regarding doctors. She has lived with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma for over twenty years. She told me the key thing about doctors is that they are practising doctors. This means that they are constantly learning as they go along. The medical profession is under a lot of pressure to keep up with the ever-changing face of medicine. All the while the list of patients grows ever longer. The doctor – patient relationship is a balancing act. Communication and listening is key for the relationship to be positive. Without it, we all end up as a set of statistics.