Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A monthly reminder

Once a month I make the trip to Tallaght for blood tests and treatment to protect me from the side effects of the bone marrow cancer (Myeloma) which I have been living with since 2007.

I have been going to the haematology day ward in Tallaght for at least once a month since January 2007 (sometimes twice a month, sometimes twice a week, depending on what is going on).

I have fallen into a routine. I leave Newbridge at about 8.40am , having dropped the kids to school, checked that I have my blood forms and made sure that I have enough petrol in the car. It usually takes me 30 - 40 minutes to drive there and as I turn into the avenue up to the hospital, I stay in the right hand lane as this is the one for the multi storey car park. I am on auto-pilot at this stage and rarely bother to glance at the ground floor level for spaces, instead making my way to the first and sometimes second floor before I find a space. I park the car and grab my things - laptop, books, notebook and iPhone.

I always take the stairs down, because I am well now and don't need the lift.

I arrive in the front door of the hospital, listening to the automated voice telling me that 'this is a non smoking hospital'. Sometimes I take the revolving door and sometimes I take the ordinary door to the right. I immediately use the hand sanitisers and turn left down to the blood clinic. Large queues of people line the corridor, all waiting to have bloods done. I bypass all the queues and take a special yellow ticket, which means I am urgent and I get to skip the queue. Sometimes there is a queue of urgent people so I may get delayed by a few mins.

I sit in the blood chair and I confirm who I am. Then the vials are plucked out of their holders - two red, a blue and a green mostly, but sometimes three red, two blues, a black and a green! The phlebotomists are experts at taking the blood and I rarely feel the small scratch which they warn you is on the way. All finished and I thank them and leave.

Next, I head for the shop and get The Irish Times. Then across to the volunteer cafe where I get a banana and walnut muffin. Then I make my way up to the first floor, again taking the stairs, as this is proof to anyone watching, of just how well I am.

Into the office then to collect my hospital chart - the staff all know me now and my chart just comes out automatically. I am on volume three of three charts now and its cover is looking very faded and tattered from use.

I drop the chart into the nurses in the day ward and ask is there a space for me - most tmes there is a chair free, but sometimes there is a small wait in the chairs in the hallway.

Blood pressure, temperature and pulse are checked immediately. I never ask anymore if they are okay as I can read the results now as well as the nurses.

Then Sharon or Christine or Roisin or Aine (I know all the nurses by name) arrive over with the pillow for me to rest my arm on while they insert a line. Another small scratch but my veins are good and this usually goes without a hitch.

Then I sit and wait for my blood results to come back. As I do I look around at the other people sitting in chairs like me and those lying back on the beds at the opposite side of the room - a lot of familiar faces that I have come to know, and all the time there are new faces - new cancers being diagnosed. I watch the fear on the faces of those people - overwhelmed with news and results and complicated sounding names of diseases and drugs and treatments.

I sit back and wait and sometimes give a knowing smile and nod to them, as if to relate 'I know what you are going through - I know the sheer terror you are feeling and the million and one questions that are racing around your brain'.

I close my eyes as I wait for my results. Some of the doubts and questions start to play out in my mind:
  • Will this month be the month when things go wrong for me?
  • Will this month be the month when they tell me I need a bone marrow biopsy as some of the levels are off?
  • Will this be the month when they tell me that there are signs that the myeloma is on the march again?
Questions, questions, all the time.

I check my email and flick onto my Facebook and Twitter pages, letting people know where I am and reading all the good wishes and good luck messages that come dilligently each month from my wonderful circle of family and friends.

Then Sharon comes over and tells me that my results are very good today - so I breathe a sign of relief. I am off the hook for another month. She attaches my treatment to my line and I sit back for the couple of hours that it will take to go in.

I text to let family know that all is well with me. Then I open the Irish Times to see what's happening in the world, because I know that all is well in mine - at least for another month anyway!


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