September 30, 2003

Hospital 2: Ready,

So, on Monday, my peripatetic oncologette suggests I go to her office the next day, see her coon-cologist, maybe get transfused, and then go from there to the hospital, where they want to put, as I understand it, a port into my chest for pumping chemo in, and a funnel into my brane for the same purpose.

I decide I need a boost, and arrange to get my hair cut. Francis, lovely friend and hairdresser, picks me up in his convertible, Bessie Smith loudly on the CD player, and drives me to his (closed) salon. Gives me a great haircut -- short, so it'll be less of a psychological shock when it starts to come out in clumps -- and swears up and down he actually arranged for me to have cancer so he could finally get to give me the short cut he's been nagging me about for the past eight years. In fact, it looks good enough that I see his point. All coiffed and cute, Francis packed me off with a big kiss and no bill -- what a sweetie. Was picked up by my friend Marla.

Marla has very kindly suggested she accompanies me, so she can see me tucked in at hospital and provide moral support. We go, as directed, to the oncologist's office. It has the usual out of date Time magazines, and one of those receptionists with more makeup than is advisable, a hectic orange flush on her cheeks, and an air of being bothered by the very presence of a bunch of patients who probably aren't even healthy for god's sake. She gives me a ten page history to fill in. I fill it in. She takes it without a glance at me, and goes back to discussing her personal life with the file clerk. Marla and I are treated to their low indignant dialogue for another forty five minutes.

Finally, a nurse comes out, takes me to a back room, and takes blood. (I really should start to keep count of how often they take blood -- today alone is four times, I think. No wonder I'm bloody anaemic. They give me a pint and take two.)

But I digress.

I go back to the waiting room and do what it's designed for, for another half an hour. Then the Haughty Receptionist tells me to go into room 6, and the doctor will see me next. Off Marla and I go. We sit in there. We sit in there. We sit in there. For two hours. Luckily, there are magazines. Unluckily, they're not quite my style of magazine: _Private Pilot_ and _Yachting Monthly_. Seems like the cancer caper is a growth business.

Finally, the oncologist arrives -- Dr R. Marla leaves, to give me privacy. He says he's not sure why Dr Zed wanted me to see him, but do I have any questions? Thousands, so I start with the simplest one. I understand I have blast cells galore in my blood stream. My understanding these are immature bone marrow cells. I'm wondering what the process is that's taking place inside my bones: a massive overproduction of cancer cells pushing out healthy ones before they're fully matured? Dr R takes deep breath: "I always like to think of cancer as like a garden. You have the nice fruit trees, and the nice veggies, and then you have the nasty weeds. Our job is to kill off the nasty weeds, and give the nice veggies and the nice fruit a chance to grow, and we have to do that very carefully...."

I failed myself here bigtime. I didn't scream at him, or stomp on his foot or spit in his little eye or anything. I just sat there and looked out the window, and when he'd finished, I told him I had no more questions.

He tells me that the receptionist has been trying all morning to get a bed for me in the hospital. It's taking a while, he admits. We go out together to peer at the receptionist, like a horned toad behind her rampart of a counter, and see what progress she is making. She says, triumphantly, that she has a room. A thought occurs to me, and I say to the Great Cancer Gardener, "You have remembered I'm neutropenic?". Erp. Argh. Owf. Nope. He was about to check me into a shared room with my lovely 1.2 white blood count.

He explains to the receptionist that I can't be in that room, because I have to have a private room since I'm acutely vulnerable to infection. She chooses not to hear the last bit, and gets very huffy. Slams down the phone, and says, "Well, if it's a private room, that can take HOURS". Tactfully, Dr R suggests we go out for a while, and wait to hear from his office. If I don't hear by, say, 5.00pm, call to check what's going on. Leaving the Receptionist from Hell behind, glowering and slapping files around with vicious efficiency, we escape.

What follows is a lovely interlude.

Posted by maddy at September 30, 2003 04:53 PM

Wait, didn't I see that receptionist in a movie recently? Yeah, I did, I'm sure of it. Here ya go:

Isn't there an oncologist in Philly who doesn't think his patients are all brainless morons?

Posted by: Vicki at October 7, 2003 07:16 AM

Dr. M defies Madeleine's request for information and she suffers him to live? She must need another transfusion.

Perhaps Dr. M has the correct blood type, Count?

- R

Posted by: Rick Tyler at October 7, 2003 12:43 AM

Maddy fixes the Great Cancer Gardener with a wide-eyed innocent stare, and in a tiny squeaky little-girl voice says, "So if I drink a biiiiiiiiiiiiig cup of Paraquat I'll get all better?"

Kia kaha (that's Maori for "don't let the bastards grind you down")

Posted by: Steve Caskey at October 6, 2003 11:09 PM
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