Why aren’t things more straightforward?

So, there we were, my wife and myself, sitting with my hematologist and proudly telling him that we’d already arranged to see a surgical oncologist to get the biopsy which my hematologist wants me to have when he asked who we were going to use. “Oh, no,” he said when we told him. “That’s no good, Jamie’s like me. I do bone marrow biopsies but not something like this, you need someone else.” So, all those hours my wife spent on the web researching surgical oncologists, all those phone calls to their offices to check whether or not they would do a biopsy, all those careful explanations that this was a biopsy of swellings on my neck, and still, still, we get put onto the wrong man! Amazing. I really think the NHS would do a better job of getting it all together, and I’m pretty sure that if the Tories get their way then the NHS will increasingly start to follow the US model, and I’m not sure that for patients that is a good thing. For instance the hematologist wants me to have a particular scan, I think a PET scan, but the insurance company will not authorise that until the result of the biopsy is known and “we know the pathology”. Surely that is wasting time, which may or may not be valuable, in order that the insurance company is able to return a bigger profit to its investors, although, from the look on his face, the hematologist’s pretty sure of the results, so the insurance company is likely to end up paying for both and therefore making a lesser return to its investors. Great isn’t it?

Am I any nearer getting to know what is causing my particular lumps and bumps which are so near the surface that the hematologist commented that my wife could probably “pop” out a node on her own without seeing a surgeon? No, not really. I think today kind of confirmed what the ENT doctor said, though my wife, who heard exactly the same words, has taken a more pessimistic view of what we were told. It seems that, if it is a cancer, it will fall into one of four groups. Two of those groups are treatable and probably curable, one of them doesn’t respond to treatment but may not be life-threatening in any immediate sense and the fourth group falls somewhere between the two points.

How do I feel about all this? Still a tough one to answer I think. On the surface I don’t yet have anything to think about as there are a range of possibilities from the lumps being benign, as it seems I don’t present other symptoms which would be associated with the cancers, through to them being caused by something aggressive and incurable, and, intellectually at least I think I’m prepared for it being the worst possible news. How true that is I’m not yet sure as there are times, some short and others much longer, when I just don’t want to have to deal with anyone else. Sometimes at the start of these periods I feel really selfish, particularly towards my wife who is giving me fantastic support, but more often I don’t get that feeling until after I’ve taken my “my-time” and I realise that she’s been left to deal with the emotional side on her own at a time when she wants to give to me, not only because she loves me but also as a sign that she believes I will come through all this and be well again. I suppose what I’m saying is that I know I am largely screening out my emotional response until I know just what it is I have to respond to, and that I’m aware that there is a real possibility that the emotional response will burst through, perhaps in a barely controllable way, at some point.

Anyway, tomorrow, or rather today as it’s now the wee small hours, I go to see the doctor who will perform the biopsy for an initial consultation and in the expectation that he will do the biopsy within a week or so. I also need to have some measurements made of the strength of my heart muscles – the doctor cautioned not to worry if I got a low score as 100% generates a score of 60 but I do wonder why that should be the case. I forgot to ask why I needed that test but from looking at the prescription it looks as though the doctor has written “chemo” (if doctors are clever enough to learn everything they need to learn, and dexterous enough to perform delicate operations in a confined space with a sharp instrument then why can’t they learn to write neatly? – as Terry Wogan was wont to say “Is it me?”). So, does the word “chemo” indicate that this doctor is of the opinion that I have a cancer which will need to be treated with chemotherapy, is he just getting all his ducks in a row or, even if the lumps are benign, will they be treated by chemo? I don’t know. I didn’t ask and neither did my wife. Even though we knew that the news might stun us we’d gone there with the intention of not letting anything pass without asking about it, and yet we missed this. Not the doctor’s fault at all as he asked several times if there was anything we wished to ask and when we did ask something he was able to give us a good clear answer. It just goes to show how focussed you have to be in these situations, and how easy it is to allow yourself to believe that you understand what is and has been said to you, when, in fact, you are simply riding along with the words. Amazing really.


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