Stories of Cancer
Giving Voice to Real Experiences

Bleak Midwinter

Having shown me to a seat, the nurse who had brought me through disappeared never to be seen again, without telling me what was going to happen next or what I was waiting for now. Why hadn’t there been a little bit of friendliness and humanity instead of this minimal communication? Fill this form in, sit there, follow me, wait here.

One woman had already kicked off, complaining in the waiting room about how long she’d been waiting. She looked tired, ill already, wearing a grey tracksuit and trainers, probably missing her next nicotine fix I thought, then wondering if that was just me stereotyping, being judgemental….. and I do know what craving tobacco can feel like.

“Been here hours now, got here before she did, why has she gone in before me?”

The receptionist tried to explain that there were different clinics taking place but then turned her back, she’s exhausted and fed up too, having to explain the system that isn’t working for her either. The complaining woman said someone was going to have to fetch her when it was her turn; she was going outside for a fag. The others waiting breathed a sigh of relief, some whispering to their partners about how she’d probably miss her turn now. The tension in the room relaxed a bit, but really the whole thing was very frustrating. No wonder assaults on NHS staff were a problem. I felt ready to have a go myself. I knew I’d have to wait a long time but I wasn’t prepared for this cold, uncaring environment.

I was determined that this time when they called my name, Terry was coming too. I wasn’t going to sit and wait again somewhere else on my own. I was ready for a fight if need be. Fortunately when the call came there was no argument about him coming with me. We were taken straight to the surgeon’s office.

We walked into the small room crammed full of serious looking people; two doctors lined up behind a desk, two nurses in front of a window so that their faces were in shadow. I avoided looking at Terry’s face, we both knew then this was going to be bad news. One of the doctors was the young woman who had spoken of ‘serious concerns’ just a couple of hours ago. I liked her – she was the only person so far who’d behaved like a human being – and the only one in the room I’d met before.

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