“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!

‘I still have a cracking plan……’

August 18, 2015

“No long faces now?….”

It was the day of my check-up when I heard I had passed my nursing entrance exam! However, in light of my recent illness the nursing school said they would need a reference from my Oncologist before they could confirm my acceptance.

I was quietly confident my Oncologist would be very supportive of my cracking plan. So I was quite surprised at what he said when I saw him during my check-up.

Oncologist: “Are you sure you want to be a nurse?”

Me: “Er, yes”. (I actually wanted to say ‘Er no, I think you’ve got the wrong patient’ but I thought better of it)

Oncologist: “An oncology nurse?”

Me: “Of course.”

Oncologist: “It will be very hard work, both physically and emotionally.”

Me: ” I know, I used to be an engineer.” (He didn’t even smile at my joke)

Oncologist: (Following what seemed a very long pause) “You can’t go around with a long face you know”

I was surprised he felt the need to say that; I thought my engineer joke was quite funny. Then again it wasn’t that funny and I guess he was used to seeing me under very worrying circumstances and understandably may have thought I was a bit of a miserable sod!

I assured him he had nothing to worry about. “Good” he said, “Because I’ve just written to the Chief Executive of the hospital telling him how disgusted I am that the health authority sees fit to ask me for a guarantee that your lymphoma won’t relapse. Instead, they should embrace your enthusiasm and support you in getting your life back.”  Then he smiled and said “Don’t let me down, will you?”

“Day one as a student nurse. Excellent, I wasn’t the only male and I wasn’t the oldest in my group….nor the tallest!  Although I did have the least hair, sadly”

I was delighted when I eventually heard that my application had been successful and I would be commencing training in the summer. It was time to hand in my notice at work and tell my burly engineering colleagues that I was leaving……….. to become a Student Nurse!

As I told people about my nurse training course the question of salary increasingly came up. I was trying not to think of that too much, it was hard enough getting my head around such a huge career change without dwelling on something as trivial as a 70% pay cut. “Yes it would be tough financially” I would say to them, “But I think I need to do this”

My wife and my Mum were very supportive, however my Dad seemed less impressed. With a one-year old at home and my wife only working part-time we were below the national poverty line which meant our older child got free school meals. It was a bit embarrassing I guess, but then it would only be for three years!…….would it not? I figured perhaps it was time to do some serious money-making cartooning!

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.


“I have a cracking plan!!!”

August 15, 2015
How do you revise for a nurses entrance exam?

‘Elephantiasis is…….”

It was Spring 1987, just under a year since I had finished my cancer treatment. It seemed a great idea to me;…….. I would apply to my local hospital for a place on the nurse training course and then become a cancer nurse, simples! Unfortunately however, because I was a mature student I first had to sit an entrance exam. I had no idea how to prepare myself for a nursing exam. I thought I might start by digging out my readers digest health books again and revise what I already knew about elephantiasis.

Fully swotted up on everything you ever needed to know about elephantiasis, I arrived for the exam. The room was full of eighteen-year old girls who all looked like exam experts. Probably because they were so used to them, having not even left school yet. I was definitely the oldest, ugliest and male-ist of them all!

I remember feeling glad that I hadn’t told too many people about my brilliant plan to become a nurse. Just think how embarrassing it would be, telling people I couldn’t even pass the entrance exam. Not only did I need to achieve a minimum exam score just to be considered for a nursing course, I also had to perform well enough to secure a place on the higher qualified Staff Nurse course, (which was crucial for my plan to work). There was quite a lot at stake,….at least I was clever enough to know that much. As I scanned the exam paper I had a pleasant surprise; just about every question was mathematical in nature, it was perfect for an engineer.

After the exam I felt quite smug as I joined the other applicants for a coffee and listened to them complaining about there being far too many numerical questions. I was fairly confident I’d done pretty well in the exam, however the big question remained as to whether or not the Health Authority would be willing to invest in training a twenty-six year old ex-engineer, who had barely finished his cancer treatment!

"Who would have thought it, Maths in a nursing exam!"

“Who would have thought it, Maths in a nursing exam!”

After the exam I had an interview with the course tutors and told them I really wanted to do the three year staff nurse course. They told me I would have to do very well in the exam if I wanted to get on that course. They also told me they had requested a reference from my oncologist on the assumption I would get the required exam results. I hadn’t thought of that! I began wondering what my oncologist might say about my potential to be a nurse. I was going to see him for a check-up later in the week so I decided I would ask him.

It was a long week, not least because of my impending check-up with the oncologist; which always put me into some kind of ‘pseudo-disease relapse state’ where every ache and pain seemed a signal that my disease was returning. But also because I was still waiting for my exam results. I hated getting exam results, because mine were usually bad! I began to have self doubt about my plan; “Who was I trying to kid? Why am I doing this so soon after my cancer? Do I even care if I don’t get into nursing, it’s probably rubbish anyway?” I asked myself, trying my best not to pin my hopes too high for fear of failure. I spent most of my spare time that week drawing cartoons, which always seemed to help whenever I was stressed…….

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.


“There’s good news and bad news” (Part 2)

August 7, 2015

“The baby will be starting school soon”

…………..Continued.

We arrived at the specialist clinic in good time, along with about three hundred other people with the same 2.15pm appointment, but we were different, we were younger by about fifty years for a kick off and we were carrying an eight week old baby. I remember thinking neither would be the case if this queue doesn’t speed up. I was ageing fast and the baby would soon be starting school!

Eventually our time came, I went into the consultation room alone, thinking I could ask dumb questions if I was alone. The Specialist popped his head in and asked if anyone was with me. He wanted my partner to be present and said he would be back in a few minutes. The nurse called her in from the waiting room and she took up position standing at the bottom of the examination table with the baby in her arms.

We exchanged puzzled looks and then the doctor and nurse returned. I remember vividly his reaction when he saw my partner and new baby son in the room. He asked if we knew who he was and if anyone had told me why I was here. We both said no, much to his dismay, as he suggested my partner take a seat. Perhaps it was a ‘fight or flight’ reaction that suddenly hit her but she refused his offer, assuring him she and the baby fine, after all we’d been sitting in his overcrowded waiting room for an eternity!  “I’d prefer to stand” she said.

“I was clearly out of my depth”

I can’t remember the exact words he used other than cancer was in there somewhere as he explained what was wrong with me. I do remember he said something about going to a hospital in Leeds for treatment. Unfortunately I do remember exactly what I said when he asked if we’d any questions, “how long will I be off work?” I don’t think he expected that.  Either I hadn’t heard a word he’d said or I was the most conscientious person he’d ever met. I knew it was neither, it wasn’t the first time and certainly wouldn’t be the last time I’d feel out of my depth in the world of Oncology.

 


“There’s good news and bad news” (Part 1)

August 7, 2015

“By now I trust that you have had the opportunity to learn more about me and Oncology Limited on the web-site. www.oncologyltd.co.uk. In an attempt to further expand on my claims of an alternative angle to oncology, I intend to regularly post thoughts and opinions and also share my experiences of a disease that has occupied more than half of my life to date and which will perhaps offer a ‘unique and diverse’ perspective of cancer.”

“Good news and bad news!”

I suppose I was never really a great engineer but I did okay, I had been working as an engineer for nine years since leaving school and I was qualified!. However, I do wonder how long I would have kept doing it, had the life-changing event never happened.

“I was never a great engineer, but I did okay……..”

It was January 1986 when our son and second child arrived, he was a beautiful bundle of fun who was a welcome companion for his three-year old sister. The pregnancy had thankfully been uneventful, which had afforded me the opportunity to do lots of overtime and prepare financially for our new addition. I was twenty-five when our second child arrived and had enjoyed good health all my life, so despite finding a couple of lumps and feeling pretty dreadful most of the past couple of months, I blamed it on doing too much overtime and had decided to put off going to the doctor until after the birth, thinking a few days off sick would be a break to enjoy the baby – no paternity leave in those days.

Why is it no GP (general practitioner) has ever taken me seriously on the very few occasions I’ve troubled them with doing their job? It took another three weeks of antibiotics and an embarrassing re-visit to my doctor before he eventually and reluctantly referred me to a surgeon to look at my lumps.

The surgery went well, however no matter how often I asked, no-one could tells us what the lumps might be, they just kept saying they had to be removed. After a brief stay in hospital I was sent home for a couple of week’s well-earned rest, I was exhausted. Unfortunately things went from bad to worse, a spell where I had to crawl upstairs because my legs had stopped working, followed by large amounts of clear fluid literally pouring out of my wound spurred on the district nurse (who was by that time, visiting twice a day, I think to see if I’d run out of fluid) to get me back in to see the surgeon.

The surgeon wasn’t a nice man and he seemed to take a particular dislike to the fact that I’d somehow ruined his handy work. Two guys who could only be described as the Chuckle Brothers visited me and began prodding and feeling under my arms and around my neck. They gave no suggestion as to what might be wrong with me but they did ask me if I was homosexual……. how embarrassing was that back in the 1980’s? I was an engineer for goodness sake………and I had two kids! It wasn’t to be the only time I’d thank God for having kids at such a young age.

Eventually I was sent home and told to visit a clinic in two days time to see a specialist who would hopefully be able to get to the bottom of what was going on.

I think to describe myself as naïve is a huge understatement. Looking back, it was amazing how an engineer could know so little about his own body and be so out of his depth trying to describe his symptoms and concerns.

The two days passed and incredibly the leaking from the surgery wound had stopped, I do actually think I’d run out lymph fluid and I’ll explain why later. The district nurse (who I have to say was brilliant and really the first person who’d ever shown any concern or sincerity about our predicament) seemed sad that I had been referred to the specialist but assured us he would be able to tell me what was going on……………To be continued.

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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