Friday, 25 May 2012

In which life gets rather tricky

One way and another, Marcia and I have been seeing rather a lot of hospitals over the last few years. Up until recently, I have been the cause with various problems of varying seriousness resulting in poor Marcia having to cart me to and fro and, indeed, drive everywhere for the two years or so when I was unable to see very well.

Now, our main concern is that a mole on Marcia's right upper arm suddenly started to change in a rather alarming fashion. A visit to her GP resulted in a referral to a consultant at Derriford Hospital and, shortly afterwards, an operation to remove what turned out to be a malignant tumour. This was on Ascension Day which, as some of you may know, was the day in 1994 that Marcia received a letter from Cate Paterson of Hodder Headline offering her a contract. Then, the other day, a second was carried out (very satisfactorily) to take out more 'just to be on the safe side'.

There is no evidence that the cancer has spread but, since nobody can be sure at this stage, she will have to return for a check up in a month. If she is still clear that will be followed for a few years with one every three months. Thank goodness that since early this year I have been able to drive again. Living where we do it would be extremely difficult if neither of us were able to. Indeed, this has made us think and we are beginning to consider moving to be a little nearer to civilisation.

I know that the NHS gets a very bad press but in our experience all the medical staff are wonderful. Indeed, to listen to her talk you would have thought that Marcia had the best morning of her life in the Freedom Unit at Derriford. She put it this way, “The staff are all wonderful, they are friendly, caring, efficient, warm and, above all, funny.” Certainly the ones that I met during a very long morning confirmed that analysis.

It is such a shame that they are let down by others. After the first operation, Marcia was given a telephone number to ring in the event of a problem or a query. She had been told that she would receive the result of the biopsy tree to four weeks after the operation. We heard nothing so she decided to telephone. Unfortunately the number was unobtainable: we were told later that the number had been changed. How can that happen? Has no one in administration thought about the distress that this could cause a frightened patient? There were other admin issues too but this is not the place for those.

Marcia had to arrive at 7.30 which meant we were up at 5.30 and leaving home at 6. We were both starving – Marcia had been told to take nothing (no solids and no liquids) and I felt this was a time to show a bit of solidarity. By the time she was taken off by the anaesthetist, I was starving. Now, on level 7 of this hospital is a most excellent restaurant. You could compare it with one of the better motorway service fooderies. I duly found my way to it (getting lost only once) and enjoyed a late but very satisfying full English breakfast washed down with really good coffee from a proper mug!

Whilst looking for the restaurant, I suddenly realised that the more modern parts of the hospital are quite beautiful and photogenic. As always I had a couple of cameras with me so I offer you just three examples below – taken I would add with the permission of the hospital's communication officer.

Then it was back to the waiting room outside the recovery wards to wait . . . and wait . . . and wait. Eventually I received a message from Marcia, 'All is well and I am planning the next chapter'. My thanks to Adrian for bringing it to me. Then, quite suddenly, it was time to fetch the car from the car park (which seemed to be miles away but that was mainly because I took the wrong path and had to return to start again) and bring it round to the pick up point outside the Oncology Department.

We were soon on our way home, driving rather slowly to the irritation of some other motorists, and Marcia started to tell me how it had been. When she came round from the anaesthetic, the first thing she was aware of was three members of staff talking excitedly about her novels. 'What better thing to hear when you come round than “We love your books, we really do!”', she said.


There are now a few chaps beginning to show a waist so we have a little progress. Not a lot but with this warm weather things could start to move quite quickly.