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In which I eat banoffee pie, and do some hospital stuff

Posted Nov 11 2009 10:02pm

Here is the banoffee pie.

Here's me eating it.

I may even have a new favourite dessert - once I convince myself that I properly like the banana part. It was goooood. Why was I not told about this, please?

Anyway. That's the most exciting part of my day, right there, at dinner with Alan, who took the photos. But maybe you want to know about the herceptin part too?

An early afternoon appointment meant meeting Diane for lunch. (Diane's name was chosen at random from the people who have offered to come and keep me company on my herceptin visits. If you offered too, don't worry, your time will come. We've got another 12 to go.) We were at the chemotherapy day unit within 15 minutes of my appointment time - as I've never waited less than 20 minutes, I thought this was a safe margin - and told that three members of staff were sick so "it was going to be horrible" . But actually, it wasn't. It wasn't my favourite way to spend an afternoon.... but it was no worse than other occasions. In fact, being in big blue chemotherapy chair within 45 minutes of arrival was something of a record.

The first needle didn't find its mark, so it was time for the ritual of the soaking of the arm in warm water.

It worked. (The heat makes the veins swell and they are easier to find, and get a cannula into.) Diane distracted me by saying 'Eeuww, that's gross'. I was quite impressed that she watched - I never do. Then came the saline flush, then the herceptin, and then we settled down with knitting and chatted the afternoon away.

The staff were clearly under pressure, but they were calm and gave every patient the time and respect that they always give. There were less hands to go round than usual, though, so there was a bit of a wait for the saline flush that comes after the herceptin has been administered. I was starting to get a bit twitchy when Kay, the drug trial nurse, came to talk to me about taking part in a monitoring study, and I said I would think about it if she set my saline up. Amazingly, she fell for it, so we left by 5pm, which was not bad going, especially as there were still 4 patients waiting for their treatment to begin.

Taking Diane with me made me see the whole experience afresh. I'm used to the papery greyness of some patients and the exhausted eyes of others. I'm used to the too-dry air and too-bright light. I'm used to the forced intimacy of watching people I've never met take tablets and have nosebleeds and stare into the middle distance as the third nurse has the sixth go at finding a usable vein in a body being systematically and relentlessly depleted by the cure. Diane isn't used to any of it. She was brilliant, but I think she was a little bit shaken too. "I won't be leaping to do it again," were her exact words. Which is fair enough, because i won't be, either.

Still. 6 down. That's a third of my herceptin treatments. Who'd have thought I'd be celebrating with a banana-based dessert?

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