It’s New Year’s Day and it seems appropriate that I should be planning a great escape of my own. I’ve been stuck in a hospital in Essex for three days now, which partly explains my delay in posting, but before I get to the whys and wherefores I need to rewind a couple of weeks.
After my last chemo of the year my dad kindly picked me up from London so I didn’t have to schlep across town to Kings Cross. Once I arrived home I finally met my beautiful nephew Gio and was spoilt rotten by my good friend Sarah whose house I was staying at as mum’s was full with my sister, her husband and the little one.
It was a relaxed, hassle free Christmas and lovely to spend time with my family as well as catching up with some old friends. Making the trip up north had been a big decision because it meant being apart from Tom, and as we all know from the previous doctors’ predictions this Christmas was supposed be my last, but as we’d all decided that was a big pile of shit I made the choice as if it were any other year.
On the 27th I travelled down to Tom’s mum’s in Essex but just a day later developed a fever of almost 40 degrees, leaving me shivering and suffering, but foolishly I assumed it was chemo side effects. This was completely stupid of me, as before I’d started Eribulin I’d been shown a DVD about the risks of getting a fever while on chemo, but Tom called the chemo hotline and we were advised to immediately go to A&E.
Despite the fact that I was feeling pretty rough, when we arrived at the local hospital I presumed I’d get IV antibiotics and be out of there the same night, but unfortunately that was not the case. I was diagnosed with neutropenic sepsis, the dangers of which were explained to us, so although I was pissed off to be in hospital I knew it was the right place for me.
I was moved to a spare bed on the plastics ward where I spent two nights feeling particularly sorry for myself, thinking about the things I wanted to be doing between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Yet Tom flouted all visiting hours and stayed with me from 10 in the morning until 11 at night, trying to keep my spirits up.
The nurses on plastics were lovely, but unfortunately one Senior House Officer decided to use me as a pin-cushion, despite my warning that I had terrible veins because of all the chemo.
“Maybe we should wait for the anaesthetist.’ I suggested after two failed, painful attempts. I had been promised that one would come up to specially to insert a cannula, due to their vein-finding skills. ‘Some chemo nurses can’t even find one’.
“Oh no, I’ll be fine. I can see lots of juicy veins here,” she said dismissively.
Now I may not have six years of medical training, but I knew that this was the biggest bullshit lie going because when any chemo nurse sees my arm they sigh and get a bucket of hot water to help bring the veins out. Unfortunately for me, the ‘I know better than you’ SHO had already decided she could do it, but five agonising attempts later she was forced to admit defeat. There was no apology; she simply left the room with a spring in her step and a trail of destruction behind her. The nurse who came in shortly afterwards found a tourniquet on the floor and we later discovered a used needle she’d cast aside on the floor by my bedside.
It was decided I should be moved to the Oncology Ward where my needs would be better met. At what should be my prime of 28 years old I was being wheeled in wheelchair at 11pm at night through dark hospital hallways. Whenever I’m ill I’m reminded of the fragility of my situation. I feel bad because I don’t stick to my food regime, you can’t juice in hospital, and I could hardly get to the loo without collapsing so whatever food you can force down feels like a victory.
I was wheeled onto the ward and was immediately hit with the smell of excrement as we passed one particular room. I was parked next to the reception desk as the porter tried to find a nurse. Looking to my left, my eyes met those of a tall, slim woman in her 40s. Her face was drawn and her hollow eyes red raw with crying; her almost blank expression was haunting. A man came out of the room she was standing outside and gave her a hug.
As Tom and I settled into the new room I warned him how difficult it might be on this ward. This place was a reminder of the evil of cancer; the indignity, the heart-wrenchingly cruel way loved ones are snatched from us. I feared he would see this as he wandered out to get tea or coffee or a paper. I couldn’t get that woman’s face out of my mind. I refuse to believe Tom will have to go through that but still find it hard to breathe when the thought enters my head.
Despite this I try to stay as positive as possible. There have been times over the last few days I’ve asked pointless questions through heaving sobs, “Why is so much shit being thrown at me?” “What did I do to deserve this?” Some days being positive just isn’t an option and it’s not always possible to suppress the self-pity.
I’m 28 and spending New Years Eve in a hospital room overlooking a car park, for fuck’s sake. Admittedly there’s probably some rave happening in Peckham in a car park so maybe that makes me kinda cool, but still. Then I remind myself I’m doing this with the man who laughs in the face of Visiting Hours; the person I love most in the world, and so you talk yourself into remembering the truly important things in life. Some people will have spent this Christmas in hospital with a child who has cancer and others will have spent it on a beautiful Caribbean island happily playing in the sea. That’s just the way it goes.
So my Christmas started off joyful and relaxed, and after Boxing Day it took a bit of a nosedive. I’m still in hospital waiting to be discharged but as it’s a weekend the most senior staff member appears to be the porter and he doesn’t seem that keen on letting me out. As for what the rest of 2012 will bring – well, none of us can predict that, but I hope it’s a bloody great one for you all.