The middle bit is loooooong and, I'm sure, a familiar tale. I was now 32, and had a mastectomy, lymph node removal and much angst over how this made me feel. I could have done with someone to talk to but was excluded from the support group because "my age might have made the other ladies uncomfortable".
I had to make do with leaflets - an abundance of leaflets that I'm sure were helpful to some but not to me. You see, I was 32. I didn't care how soon I could use my arm to knit again. I didn't knit. I couldn't identify with the illustrations of old ladies with grey hair in a bun doing their post-op exercises. I was 32. I didn't have grandchildren so skipped the page on not picking them up until I had healed. I couldn't help feeling left out when the other ladies on the ward organised a magazine swap session and the only thing I had to contribute to the pile of People's Friends and My Weeklys was a more! magazine with its lurid illustration of the "Position of the Fortnight" on the cover and the promise of a frank and full review of the latest Ann Summers gadgets inside. (I didn't contribute it. Don't worry.)
I couldn't handle being told by a nurse that "We don't drink tea after 8pm. It's Horlicks or chocolate" but did quite relish the filthy look as I returned, triumphant, tea in hand from my foray into the hospital where I had successfully located a tea machine. I didn't like the suggestion that I stop reading and put my overhead light out at 9pm - 9PM! If I was at home, the evening would just be beginning and here they wanted me to go to sleep! Without my cup of tea!
The operation was on Monday. By Friday, I had had enough. I was, at the time, a vegetarian and the hospital menu offered me cheese sandwiches. Twice a day. I did have the other option once - cold broccoli covered in cold cheese sauce and went swiftly back to the cheese sandwich. On Friday the ward closed. Yes - closed for business at 5pm. Everyone was discharged but me. My drains were still being silly, I had a seroma big enough to have its own postcode and they didn't want to let me go. But they were shut!
They ignored me all day - no lunch or dinner - no medication - no drinks - I was the only one left in the ward and I think I was just forgotten. I read my book, demolished my last few satsumas and waited to see what happened next.
At 5pm, they decided they wanted to send me to Leicester hospital - at 5.01pm I decided I would rather shit in my hands and clap than be transferred to the hospital that was a) miles from home and b) currently dealing with a massive outbreak of bird flu. I mentioned discharging myself. The nurse said I couldn't - they had to monitor the output on the drain bottles. I pointed out none of them had been near me all day and so it was obviously not that much of a concern. I asked why I couldn't monitor them myself at home, note the levels and empty them myself should they look like overflowing. She conceded and I was released "conditionally".
I went home, had a bath and stayed up until 12.30AM. Drinking tea.
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