One minute I was slumped, bored, in the waiting room. The next I was bolt upright, shocked, with the doctor and nurse, being told I was now on a cancer pathway. There would be a multi-disciplinary team handling my care, at this hospital, and at the other hospital I was being referred to. It sounded comforting, until the nurse got to the last bit.
‘And you can ring or email me any time if you’re worried about something. Well, email is better. Yes, email me any time, day or night, and I pick up all my emails on Tuesdays so I’ll get back to you then.’ So all my myriad, middle-of-the-night, every day of the week crises will be carefully and sympathetically dealt with – on Tuesdays? ‘Yes, I only come in on Tuesdays.’
It’s not the lovely nurse’s fault. It’s not the hard-working, creaking, good old NHS’s fault. But it was at that moment that I decided to step off the pathway. I was going to be Little Red Riding Hood, not Dorothy. I was going to try to take the shortest route through the forest, and I was going to do my best to outwit the big, bad wolf. The plan, I was told, was that an appointment would be made, in two or three weeks, for me to see a specialist at the other hospital. Then I’d wait for a bit longer for various checks and tests to determine the other treatments I’d need and whether the second operation would go ahead. Then the position would be analysed. Then they’d discuss it all with me ….. and then, and then, and then. We could all be in our graves by the end of it, let alone me.
Given that 18 months had been wasted, between my first visit to my old GP, who’d said categorically that the mole wasn’t cancerous, and the appointment with my new GP, who’d referred me straight to a dermatologist, I just didn’t feel I had the time to hang around while we all skipped along the effing pathway. As soon as I got home, I rang the second hospital, and got a cancellation for the next day with the consultant. She told me I’d have to have a brain scan and a PET body scan, which could take, of course, two weeks. So I got on the phone and tried my cancellation trick again. No luck. I started investigating private treatment, which would cost, gulp, £3600 for both scans. I was staring at my chequebook in dismay when the phone rang. It was the MRI unit. I could come in on Sunday for a brain scan. Yes!! I was thrilled.
Then I realised I was unfeasibly excited about sticking myself head-first into a terrifying machine with unknown consequences. Truly, a lot had happened in five days.
ps if you are worried about melanoma and want to check your moles, try www.skincancer.org/melanoma or www.cancerhelp.uk