Stories of Cancer
Giving Voice to Real Experiences

Bleak Midwinter

We went back to the clinic to wait for the results of the test. Sitting in the same waiting room as before, the anxiety in the room was palpable. We watched other women arrive and leave. I was jealous of those who seemed to come and go quickly – they must be okay. Most women arrived looking anxious and uncertain, their fear of cancer written on their faces.

Impatient and brusque receptionists behaved as if the patients were being deliberately difficult when it was clear that they simply didn’t know what to do or where to go. Not many of the women arriving there that day knew what to expect, apart from a mammogram, and no-one took the time to enlighten them. Everyone was given a blue form to fill in, asking for information about medical histories. I still had mine in my bag, nobody had asked for it, so it was obviously not that important. Still it gave you something to do when you arrived. After that everyone looked down, read their papers or magazines and avoided eye contact with each other, pre-occupied with their own worries.

When a nurse eventually came to collect the next woman in the waiting area, they would call the name, turn on their heels, sometimes asking the patient to follow them, sometimes just assuming that they would be followed, taking them through to another waiting room. I felt like an old hand now, having been through to the other side a few hours ago.

The first time I’d assumed I was going straight for the mammogram and I’d left my coat, newspaper and glasses with Terry. When I got to the other side and was put in another waiting area I was really annoyed, sitting there without glasses so that I couldn’t even read the crap, out of date magazines on the table. Why had nobody told me that I might want to bring my glasses, or that I would be waiting again? Why didn’t I go back and get them?

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