A Day at the Races
Doctors recommend doctors, who recommend tests and more tests, and drugs and more drugs, and at the end drive you crazy and you need to see a shrink. I feel I’ve set a record last week but I’m sure it is just business as usual for the medics.
My oncologist, also now a good friend, rushed to my flat thinking I had taken a turn for the worse. She put me in the hospital for tests and antibiotics. I was visited there by and ear, nose and throat specialist from another hospital. I saw a parade of ‘on duty’ doctors, two speech therapists, several radiologists and a partridge in a pear tree. The bird was most helpful, although the doctors did their best.
Out of hospital, I was free to see doctors in several clinics. I ran to see a Professor for a swallowing test and then another expert for a lung function test and of course the chemo doctor. Then the ENT doctor recommended a gastroenterologist (reflux) and my oncologist recommended a substitute doctor while she went to a game farm in South Africa, and I saw them all, too.
Because this was also the week my super port that delivers my chemo packed in, I stopped to see the nurse in charge of daycare. Natalie recommended I see a radiologist and a surgeon. The joke was that the surgeon who had put the port in thought I should have called him immediately when a huge black and blue mark erupted on my neck. Was he kidding? Would I want to worry a doctor? Did I want to see another doctor? I was sure it was markings from a necklace, not a leaking port.
My Monday at the races; Act one
And so the week began and I starred in a farce played out across the clinics of the world-famous Harley Street. Think Groucho Marx when you think of me running from one clinic to another: if I could have only kept my hospital gown on as I ran from doctor to doctor, clinic to clinic, the picture would be complete.
That morning I had two appointments that multiplied and became four and then six before the day was out. I woke up at 6.30 with a start, fiddled with wig, took a bath and realized that I couldn’t find my car key. I only have one because I lost the other. I searched the flat unsuccessfully for the key and realized I had to run to my first appointment at 9.15. I actually do not run, I waddled to Harley Street and was nearly run over by a six-foot mom wheeling twins to nursery school. She deserved a speeding ticket. No one has patience at 8.30 in the morning.
I arrive safely and early at Harley Street clinic and go to reception. Because of my voice (which is now speaking in whispers) and the fact that English is everyone’s second or third language, they cannot find my name or my doctor’s name. When they do, they telephone him on his mobile, which does not work in the basement where radiology is planted. Of course, I have no idea and I wait. My next appointment creeps up. It is at 10.40, about ten minutes walk down the street. I start to get nervous.
I’m then directed to the daycare centre where they will find the doctor and have him pick me up there. It is now nearing 9.45 and I have my next appointment at the competing London Clinic. I’m definitely nervous.
In the daycare centre, everyone is welcoming and the search for the doctor begins in earnest. At 10.10 the assistant comes up and says the doctor has been waiting for me since 9.00. I am told to change and he will do the procedure. I’m so nervous by now that it becomes apparent to everyone around me. The Asian assistant suggests that I meditate, sit quietly in the examination room and relax my mind. Not a chance.
It is 10.15 when the doctor finally arrives; I have not relaxed at all. I accost him with my problem. He, by contrast, has clearly done his meditation and in a relaxed way suggests that I change, go to the appointment at London Clinic and return to see him before lunch. Great! Problem solved. No! The farce is just beginning.
I change and do my ultra fast waddle to London Clinic where a huge cancer centre is being built, which makes the area unrecognizable so I can’t even find the front door. In a panic, I run around the building and there it is, where it has always been, but looking incongruous among new buildings. In a semi panic, I wait to see the doctor. I conclude from my investigative peek at the receptionist’s diary that he books every 20 minutes and his next patient is early. I feel I’ll be able to return to Harley Street before noon.
Dr Anley is nothing if not thorough. He asks simple questions that I can’t answer. Luckily I brought some notes or we would have got nowhere. He seems to understand why I’m coughing continually and getting sick so often. He suggests that I have a gastroendoscopy that afternoon at 2.30. Since I haven’t eaten all day I’m in great shape for a full anesthetic. It will take two hours and I will be finished at 4.30 in time to meet my friend at the Odeon Covent Garden to see Single Man at 6.00. She is coming from afar and I want to see her.
Back at Harley Street, I change and get my linogram. That is almost like an ultrasound of the power port. I can see my power port clearly: it looks like all the wires in my life, TV, phone, computer, electric blanket; twisted. Nothing could pass through the tubing since it now has the bends.
The radiologist gives me a frightening lecture about what would happen next and ends by asking if I mind them going through the groin to fix it. Do I mind? It is time for Grouch never mind Groucho Marx. I have no idea if I mind. Because of my state and the way he asks I was certain that the groin meant vagina and I panic. It took several days to figure out where the groin was located.
Now I had two hours left and could not eat or drink. I decided to waddle home and look for the car key and take a power nap. No car key, short power nap, and I waddle to London Clinic. The anesthetic fully knocked me out and I slept for the whole procedure. I woke up wondering if he has done it yet. He gave me some more medication and said something about the anesthetic passing through my system quickly. Not giving this remark a moment’s thought, I took a taxi to the cinema, arriving an hour and a half early. I decided to go next door and shop at the amazing catering store for chefs.
As I wandered through the store I embarked on an imaginary redo of my kitchen, but suddenly the anesthetic passed through me and I ran madly to the cinema toilet. I didn’t exactly make it. So I cleaned up as best I could and took a taxi home to change my clothes. I feel no shame revealing this because others with these side effects will understand.
I went back to my apartment, changed and returned to the cinema by taxi to see A Single Man. I had just read the book and could not figure out how Tom Ford could ever make a film out of it. He added some things that worked and others that didn’t. My friend and I agreed that there were a few designer touches too many. Changing his lady friend from a hippy chick to a designer-clad aristo was one too many for me. I needed to go home after the film and my friend understood. (That’s why we call them friends.) What a day!
The good news was that I made chicken soup the day before. I needed it.