The c word

Hospitals are on ‘black alert’. Actually, my doctor friend told me that they are on ‘beyond black alert’. Whatever they are on, it is clear that they are in crisis. We have been advised not to go to hospital unless it is an absolute emergency. The lack of space has led to patients being placed in make-shift wards on the corridors, whilst the staff shortage has meant that locums are being called in left, right and centre, with agency nurses flurrying around like headless chickens.

As per usual with my life, it seemed appropriate for this to be the one time when I would need to go into hospital for a non-emergency. The one time when the hospital was filled to the brim, ready to burst at the seams.

Therefore, you can imagine my relief when the phone call finally came early on Friday morning to say that there was a space on the Planned Investigation Unit.

Last Friday, I went into hospital for my first round of rituximab, or as it is otherwise known, chemotherapy. My family and I are calling it chemo-light. I will not be spending day after day for months on end wired up to a machine, I will not be chugging my guts up for the next few weeks and I will not be losing my hair (well no more than I am already). I will, however, be killing off all the b-cells in my body, in an attempt to stop the production of the horrible antibodies which are, in turn, attacking my brain. After trying copious amounts of different treatments and having to put up with their horrible side effects, I am finally making a start on the last hope.

There are countless words that can produce emotive responses in people. One of these words is chemotherapy. Every two minutes in the UK, someone is diagnosed with cancer. Just last month a friend of mine was diagnosed with a tumour in his brain. It truly can affect anyone, at anytime. Cancer is the worst. It seems inevitable, therefore, that the majority of people will have some feeling towards the word chemotherapy, through either personal events or from those of a loved one. This has made explanation of it difficult. Even the most highly trained medical experts struggle to understand what is going on in my body, which makes trying to explain it to all of you near to impossible. Not only that, but once people hear the word chemo they start to jump to all sorts of conclusions in their head and make false judgements based on the beliefs they have made through their own experiences.

Being the first person with my illness to have had the treatment in my hospital makes me a little bit special I suppose; but being the guinea pig also has its flaws. No one knows if the treatment will work. No one knows if there will be long-term side-effects. No one knows what the outcome will be.

I am, however, so thankful, that whilst the hospital staff are rushing around on ‘beyond black alert’ I am still able to make a start on the next stage of my journey through recovery, whatever the outcome may be.

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