“Just a few tests, that’s all”

August 30, 2015

March 1986

Cancer perceptionI spent the first day at Cookridge Hospital going back and forth to the pathology department, suffering one blood test after another. There were no mobile phones or lap-tops in those days (well, not in my world) so keeping the family up to date wasn’t easy. There was a ‘mobile’ payphone, which could be brought to your bed area but in the old style ‘Nightingale Ward’ there was little or no privacy.

In between the blood tests and visits from numerous people in white coats, I began getting to know the other ‘poor souls’ optimistically hoping that I would be spending a lot of time with them. It turned out five of us were from the same town and we were all twenty-five years old or younger. Two of us had non-Hodgkins lymphoma, two had testicular cancer and one had Hodgkins disease. How likely was that? I often wonder if the large ICI plant in our town which made weed-killer had anything to do with that……..I’m just saying!!. Almost everyone was totally bald and those who’d been on treatment a while had a yellowy ‘ill’ look to their complexion and everyone seemed to have tubes going into them or were they coming out of them? It was difficult to tell. Nevertheless they were becoming my friends and it was good to make some friends.

ChemotherapyIt was like moving into a new neighbourhood, everyone knew each other except me and they were almost competing with one another to offer me advice. Some of their information was useful, but some totally useless, such as their assurance that I had nothing to worry about with the bone-marrow biopsy I had scheduled for the next day. It later transpired my advisors were lucky enough to have had a general anaesthetic when they had theirs done, a luxury I was to be denied as a result of the operating theatre being refurbished that week………Lucky me!

Around six O’clock my Dad arrived on the ward, looking almost as ill as my new friends. It was like the kryptonite effect on Superman, he really didn’t do illness and hospitals but it was good to see him. Unfortunately I had very little to tell him other than that the investigations had started and that I had made lots of new friends he probably doesn’t want to meet yet. I felt so sorry for my Dad that evening he was so uncomfortable with being there but at least he got to see me and I hadn’t lost any hair, or turned yellow. My Mum on the other hand was stuck at home 30 miles away and was probably going mad with worry and as for my wife, well I can only imagine what she was going through.

The content in my blog is provided for educational and informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for a health care professionals advice. Please consult your own appropriate health care provider about the applicability of any of my opinions with respect to your own symptoms or medical conditions. The information in my blog does not constitute legal or technical advice….sorry!

“Selling my soul to the Devil!”

August 25, 2015

IMG_0575It was Summer 1994; I had been a nurse for just over eight years and was beginning to feel I was losing my personal war against inequality of cancer care, when I decided to look for a full-time position in the pharmaceutical industry. It hadn’t been an easy decision or an obvious one for that matter, I had spent weeks soul searching, just to make sure I still had a soul to sell, to the Devil.

I had found the last eighteen months as an oncology nurse working in a district general hospital extremely challenging. I had learned some new things; like how to dodge a karate kick, cope with patients’ guilt ridden sons and daughters, oh and where to find their parents when they disappeared off the ward. (Which was usually at the bus stop just outside the hospital) On a more constructive note; I had also learned CPR to the highest level, which sadly, had never been my intention. It was time to re-think things and focus back on cancer.

Knowing that the largest amount of cancer research investment came from the pharmaceutical industry I figured it might be worth while taking a closer look. But what could I do for them? As luck would have it, Amgen (a large U.S. biotech company) were looking for a nurse advisor……..’I could do that’ I thought. ‘For a start I’d advise them to lower their prices!’ Yes, I’m afraid I was just as naive as everyone else.

Selling my soulThe company was looking to hire two experienced oncology or haematology nurses to provide a free educational service to UK nurses working in oncology. Despite having an inherent aversion to public speaking, it didn’t take much for me to overlook such a trivial issue. As an NHS nurse it wasn’t difficult to be impressed by pharmaceutical company salaries and this job would come with a company car, complete with phone and a lap-top! How cool was that?

First though, I would have to be interviewed, which would entail a trip to their impressive UK office in the university town of Cambridge! Time to dig out my cancer books and re-familiarise myself with all things cancer and of course elephantiasis!

I didn’t own a computer in those days, so I was restricted as to what I could find out about my prospective employers . I knew they were a significant player in the world of bio-technology and that they had a new drug I couldn’t even spell……….and that was pretty much it. I had a week until my interview, so I could either use that time; to do as much research as possible, go and buy a suit, or figure out a way to bribe someone into giving me the job. Instead I chose to do neither. ‘Besides working in Pharmaceuticals was probably rubbish anyway, right?’………..

The content in my blog is provided for educational and informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for a health care professionals advice. Please consult your own appropriate health care provider about the applicability of any of my opinions with respect to your own symptoms or medical conditions. The information in my blog does not constitute legal or technical advice.


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