Last week, a free event advertised on Instagram penetrated my early morning fog. It was about how to become a mega speaker/coach/author and make money. I won’t lie—it intrigued the hell out of me. No details were given as to where the event was going to be held, except for… in Johannesburg. I heaved a sigh of relief when I saw, after signing up, that it was at Gallagher Estate. Not so far away.
I enticed my daughter to sign up too. We discussed the event, fully aware that it would involve a lot of bullshitty selling pitches but we’d learn as much as we could. We both don’t have issues with public speaking but it’s the how to get out there that stumps us.
I envisage giving talks about my experience with melanoma last year and maybe selling some copies of my book—Out Damned Spot—along the way. After all, according to CAN/SA South Africa has the 2nd highest incidence of skin cancer in the world after Australia and in particular one of the highest incidences of melanoma worldwide, as far as Caucasians are concerned.
People should care and be aware, shouldn’t they?
My ex-boss once told me that if you learn ten per cent at a workshop,
seminar or conference, you’ve done well for yourself. I was planning on snatching
at least that or more.
We got the odd email with snippets of information about the
event. One of them said we were to dress for success. I pondered… heels? Did
that mean heels? I’m not a heel-type of person.
Then a ticket for the event magically winged its way into my inbox. I briefly scrolled through it, looking for the exact venue. Gallagher Estate is huge: there are five halls, each with their own little (I use the term loosely) seminar rooms. There was no exact information. I figured it would be divulged closer to the time.
The night before, I consulted Google—it would most certainly
shed some light on the exact location of the venue.
But it turned out to be an Eskom moment; no light was shed
My lovely husband took pity and agreed to help with my
search for the exact venue. He started with the ticket, “Scroll down, Gin.
Scroll down,” he commanded.
There was bloody nothing and I knew it but my eye hooked on a bit of information in small print. Roughly summarized, thou shalt say nothing afterwards about the event. Hmmm… why would that be? Wouldn’t they want a person to rave about it on social media—at least? Or is it that they don’t want you to rant?
Now Mr Foxx, I don’t want
to be an author, I am one. One of the
things that writers do is research. I also happen to be married to a physicist
and they are professional researchers.
Suffice to say we uncovered enough information to dull the edge of my enthusiasm for the event.
Then, only after reading the enlightening stuff, I watched a snippet of the video that accompanied the event advert. The camel’s back broke. Sent my daughter a text and told her not to bother getting up at the crack of dawn, we were not going.
Spent more time pondering… if people have so much money to throw away on being coached, what are they actually trying to achieve in the first place? Call me naïve, but I was also slightly shocked that he’d pay celebrities mega-bucks to appear on his shows and then ambush them. Or pay them to say how great he was.
I was slightly disappointed but vastly relieved at the same
time. At least nobody was going to brainwash me into buying stuff.
My daughter scoffed, saying that she’d have been with me and
would have kept a tight rein on my credit card.
I’ll have to find another way to up my marketing skills.
The same day, I was trawling through my junk mail, checking that there wasn’t anything important when I came across one of those nasty threatening emails
I am a hacker who has access to your operating system. I also have full access to your account. I’ve been watching you for a few months now. The fact is that you were infected with malware through an adult site that you visited. If you are not familiar with this, I will explain. Trojan Virus gives me full access and control over a computer or other device. This means that I can see everything on your screen, turn on the camera and microphone, but you do not know about it. I also have access to all your contacts and all your correspondence. Why your antivirus did not detect malware? Answer: My malware uses the driver, I update its signatures every 4 hours so that your antivirus is silent. I made a video showing how you satisfy yourself in the left half of the screen, and in the right half you see the video that you watched. With one click of the mouse, I can send this video to all your emails and contacts on social networks. I can also post access to all your e-mail correspondence and messengers that you use. If you want to prevent this, transfer the amount of $500 to my bitcoin address (if you do not know how to do this, write to Google: “Buy Bitcoin”).
ad nauseam blah…
After I’d picked myself up off the floor laughing (remember I have a writer’s imagination), I felt a bit miffed that sick weasels waste time trying to threaten people with ridiculous shit like this. How many people do they catch? Are people really so paranoid and stupid? I suppose if you’ve been “satisfying yourself” you might be a bit worried though.
Was further amused to read a blog on the very same topic this morning—Tom Kane hits the nail on the head. The only problem is, I don’t think our police would be very interested. They have bigger crooks to catch.
How many times do we have to tell you? Don’t fuck with us writers.
If you’ve started the journey on this blog – you might want to start at the beginning – otherwise it might not make sense.
By now my nervous levels were amped and darting all over the place. Was in full corny joke mode and started chatting to my ward neighbours. Did not get to torture everybody for too long because another dude pitched up.
Said good-bye to Chris and watched nervously as we tootled off into the lift and ascended into a part of the hospital I’d never seen before.
Pre-op. It was chilly as hell in there. A nice dude came and tucked a warm blankie-type thing around me. Stopped me shivvering – not sure if it was from the cold or with fear.
Several other people popped up waving forms around, checking my signature, was this mine? Was I sane and of sound mind… huh? Was I ever? Asking questions about nail polish and false teeth and when I last ate. Was I wearing the sexy undies? They gave me another pair of bloomers (okay not really but looked a lot like them) to put on my head.
The anaesthetist was running late and had not pitched up yet. 13h00 came and went. There was a giant-sized clock on the wall so I could see each minute ticking away. At some stage I pulled the bloomers down over my nose and shut the shitty world out.
I so badly wanted to get this whole freaking thing over with.
Eventually the dude pitched up, apologized for being late and the show got on the road. Apparently they like to double check that you are not talking shite and have not lied to the nursing staff. Really? I mean if you do something stupid like eat – it’s your life on the line. Who does that?
A beefy orderly wheeled me into the upstairs bowels of the operating area. Chilly as hell became even chillier. We arrived at the venue. I had to scoot onto an icy slab and feel that I was in the middle – I guess they did not want me rolling around and falling off mid-op now – did they?
There were three bright lights above and it was fucking scary.
My doctor loomed into view. I’d already had a jab of something to make me drowsy and the dude had said sometimes people got truthful. Not me. I just started bitching about how his useless receptionist had booked me for a boob job…
Next thing I knew a nurse was tapping me telling me to wake up.
Everything throbbed and burned and hurt like shit. Tilted my head to check that I still had my whole arm and hand. (Yes really – I had been very worried that they might chop it off in my sleep – stupid hey? Chris laughed like a drain when I told him.)
She asked if I was in pain. Fuck yeah. Took a million years for her to scome back. She rolled me over and jabbed me in the bum. That was sore too.
Lay there looking at the same big clock and realised I’d just lost more than an hour and a half of my life, as well as bits and bobs of body.
Eventually they wheeled me back to the ward. When my eyes lit on my lovely husband they filled with tears and leaked down my face.
My mouth felt like a thousand camels had trekked through it – was finally allowed a sip of water – 17 hours later.
Every little movement hurt like hell. Chris sat there and held my good hand – beaming love and support into my bod. Feeding me with sips of water every so often – it’s a shite feeling when your teeth stick together!
Eventually they brought me supper – at some ungodly early hour of the afternoon. I took one look and decided perhaps not but slurped down some shitty hospital coffee though that tasted fabulous. We waited eagerly for the doctor to appear and give me the all clear to go home.
He arrived, greeting me with “How are you. Sore? I supposed that’s a silly question!” I replied – Fucking silly question! Can I go home now – with some industrial strength pain killers and a sleeping tablet please??
But noooo…. he thought it would be a much better idea for me to stay the night in hospital and my ridiculous husband agreed with him. Better pain control and the nurses could monitor stuff.
Did you ever!
Did not have the strength to argue. Besides I was attached to those voluminous blue knickers – was not ready to hand them over yet. Okay – I lie – was too sore to even contemplate putting clothes on and walking any distance. So I wimped and agreed to stay the night.
Chris went home, promising to bring me pizza (which I had bizarrely been lusting after) for supper later.
I dozed. The pain was quite interesting – and I have a very high threshold for pain. There was a feisty old lady in the corner bed – who was a survivor from the camps in the Second World War. She kept telling the nurses interesting stories and the other two ladies in the ward and I eavesdropped unashamedly.
Chris Whatsapped later and said he was on his way back to the hospital. I texted furiously back and nixed the pizza- a ham and cheese homemade sandwich would be just lovely. True, I’d been lying there in bed, drooling for pizza, but could not for the life of me figure out how I was going to actually sit up and eat it without dripping greasy stuff all over the bed – besides – both arms were sort of incapacitated. One with a drip and the other with a chopped out forearm section and goodness only knows what was going on under my arm. I had yet to see. There was a drain too with an interesting looking concertina type thing attached to some tubing… attached to me.
In fact – I had no arms for the blood pressure thingy – they had to use my leg.
It should go on record – that was THE most delicious sarmie I have ever eaten.
I finally convinced Chris to go home and sleep. He’d had a horrendous day just sitting around worrying about his pain-in-the-ass wife. He was beyond exhausted.
Got doled out two pain killers and a half a sleeping pill around 22h00. Thought yay me – for once in my life I will sleep. Not so. Was awake again at 01h30. Mind you – it’s not very peaceful in hospital. They are always waking you up to poke and prod you and stick things in your ear.
Next morning finally arrived – woofed down the breakfast that the other two ladies looked disparagingly at. It was totally delicious. Chris pitched up bright an early – after all the doctor had said that he’d release me when he did his early morning rounds. Early my backside! He took his own sweet time.
Everything was still sore but bearable. The drain was removed, the hole covered up and I saw that there was an enormous track that had been cobbled up under my arm. I later found out – when the doctor removed the stitches, that they had removed the entire lymph node under my arm. That part of the operation was very much bigger than the excising of the melanoma bit.
Later that night, when I stripped and got into bed, I found this was still attached to my back. We had a good laugh and Chris peeled it off. The wound under my arm was incredibly uncomfortable. The next morning when I showered, I was horrified to discover that the whole of the back of my shoulder and arm was completely numb. Except for the bit above my elbow where it felt like it had pins and needles – sort of.
Apparently this is normal and it takes 3 to 4 months to get the feeling back. A bit of warning would have been nice.
Waiting for the results was just horrible. Everybody was telling me to be positive – but it had not occurred to me that the mole could have been a melanoma in the first place – and I’d been incredibly complacent. So I was not going to make that same mistake. Was cautiously optimistic.
We’d been told he’d give me a call on the Wednesday or Thursday. Life went on and I started driving on Tuesday (the op was the Friday before). Mom needed pills. I do confess, that when I had to go back to the shops on Wednesday because Clicks had messed up mom’s pills and she’d not checked – I had a meltdown. Stomped into my GP’s rooms and demanded to know what had happened to the histology report – who had screwed up and then promptly laid my head on the desk and wept. Then fled . (Called Chris and told him that there should be a support group for people who had to live with their 84 year old mothers, damn near broke my cell phone with all the snot and tears.) It’s not always easy. For any of us. But mom not having her license makes it a little harder. Had to take her a PS- I’m sorry choccy the week after and apologize. At least the waiting room had been empty because I had let rip with some choice words.
On Thursday – 6 days after the op, I emailed Miss Thang at “My doctors” office, reminding her to remind him that he was supposed to call me with the results. Par for the course there was no nice little reply back. She has absolutely no people skills at all.
The doctor called a few hours later and gave me the all clear.
Chris brought home champers that night and we all celebrated. Well not quite. It had been very stressful on everybody – tippy-toeing around a person who was branded with the dreaded C. Once I got the all clear, Emma fell to pieces and had a hissy fit. I could understand it.
On the 4th of June (3 days late because the dude went on holiday – check out the lovely professional emails). I had the stitches out of both places. My arm looks pretty good – specially if you look at it from above. From the side it looks a bit like a lop-sided camel.
The place under my arm is not half as neat. Think whoever sewed that up was practicing to be an upholsterer. In fact, I’m sure they used the opportunity to check out the insides of my elbow with the gamma camera whilst they were grovelling under my arm. Or that’s what it feels like, anyway.
The entire month of May 2018 was filled with stitches, worry, panic, more worry, jubilation, pissed-offness and being incredibly thankful that that I got the all clear – well – put it this way – that particular node was clear.
If you missed the first bit of this dastardly cancer journey – start here.
The 18th May finally arrived. D day. I’d set about 6 alarms because I’d been sleeping unbelievably badly and sometimes fell dead asleep around 5ish. We had to be at the hospital at 07h30.
Not being allowed anything to eat or drink meant no coffee. But the furries still needed to be fed.
It was one of those crisp wintery mornings where everything smells of a brand new day – with a hint of exhaust fumes.
There were only a couple of people at reception and so the booking-in process was a doddle… except for the fact that I noticed – after they had already printed 60 stickers – that the Medical Aid member code was for Chris and not myself. We groaned – perfectly sure that this was going to cause plenty of hassles later on.
Turns out all my doctor’s patients get put in the gynaecology slash urology ward. We were given directions how to get there.
Fuckydoodle! I thought to myself as I saw what number bed I had been assigned to – really – number 13? You’ve got to be kidding. I want another bed.
But no – 13 it was. Seemed pathetic to make a fuss and ask for the bed by the window. (Those are the best spots – by the way… if you ever do have a choice.)
The nice sister pitched up with a gajillion forms and a receptacle covered with a crackling baggie. She pointed to the bathroom – samples were needed. It’s hard widdling into a bottle when your hands are shaking. I got weighed and measured. The nurse oohed and aahed over my lovely weight.
Chris sat next to my bed feeling very much like the odd man out in the ladies ward. I offered him the choice of breakfast at Wiesenhof but he declined. It was warm in the ward after the brisk chill of the morning outside and I shed layers of clothing including my boots and made myself comfy sitting cross-legged on the bed. It was going to be a freaking long time to 13h00 when the op was scheduled.
Two seconds later a dude pitched up with a wheelchair. I was needed in nuclear meds. Somehow I had fondly imagined that another nice nurse was going to pitch up with a needled full of toxic stuff that would be injected into my veins… not so.
No really… I protested – I can walk. It was, however, not an option. Hopped back into my boots and into the chair. We were half way down the corridor when I asked if I could take my book. He sighed – yes – I could have my book. So I leapt out of the chair before he could object and started running back… a few steps away I stopped and said – well could I have my phone too – else how was I going to be in contact with Chris. Double sigh – clearly he realised this was going to be a high maintenance patient.
Chris saved the day and dumped my entire handbag on my lap and the journey began again.
Down the passage (back the way we’d just come) and into double doors marked “nuclear medicine”. My trustworthy driver parked me in an empty section and departed. I gave my name to the receptionist and pointed out that the number on the sticker was wrong. She rectified it – for their section anyway.
I sat, heart thumping. Not knowing what to expect.
I should mention here – the answers that I had gotten from “my doctor” were sketchy and not really satisfactory – but I’d decided it wasn’t important – I could surely find all the information I needed on the internet. Turned out this was not the case. I was frantically messaging my friends from iThemba LABS days – asking how it all worked – and trying to figure out what the procedure exactly entailed. How did removing or biopsying a sentinel node work. What did it involve? There was loads of info on certain things and absolutely nothing on others. The best I could come up with was this really scary video the night before the op. Then I really panicked. Have no clue if I was just a crappy Googler or if people don’t tag with the correct keywords – but I was unprepared to say the least.
A nice lady came out and introduced herself. She asked me either when, or where, I’d had the mammogram.
My chin dropped onto my knees. Gobsmacked! Really? I was supposed to have had a mammogram for this op? WTF? Nobody told me.
Never – was my reply.
She crossed her arms – a bit shocked.
Well… how do you know you’ve got breast cancer then?
The receptionist nodded. Yes – you’ve been booked in for breast cancer nuclear meds.
I exploded – that bloody woman had fucked up again. Seriously! (According to the receptionist it was not the first time either. Apparently she was new.) I didn’t care what she was – I was really miffed.
The nice lady had to go off and recalibrate her machine or whatever it is they do – with the correct dosage of nuclear meds. I sat there fuming. Imagine if they had not had the right meds available and the whole thing had to be postponed again because of one person’s stupidity.
A few minutes later I was ushered into the inner sanctum. A snazzy white gamma ray camera was the focal point.
Oh. Right. Fabulous. Nowhere in any of my googling had this little baby shown up. (I snitched this pic off the internet – leave a message below if you recognise it and want some credit – I’ll happily give it.)
She explained that she was going to inject either side of the now-non-existent mole. The meds would travel up my arm and land up in the sentinel node – or something like that. I dutifully handed over my arm.
She foofled and fiddled and rearranged things for about 10 or 15 minutes. Then positioned me under the gamma camera. The box like plate with the camera came down close to my face – actually it touched my nose at one stage but I objected and it went back up a few millimeters. She was really sweet and kept checking that I was comfortable. I had a fluffy thick blanket covering most of me – thought it was a bit over the top in the beginning but turned out it was necessary in the end.
I’m going to leave you here for 30 minutes – she said.
OMG! Really – 30 minutes – lying still. What happens if my nose itches or I want to sneeze. Sneakily slid my eyes over to the monitor to see if I could interpret anything on the screen. Nada. Wickedly wiggled my fingers on the injected arm to see if it made a difference. There was a little star burst on the screen a few seconds later. Tried it out again – but then there was nothing – must have been a coincidence. Got eye ache after a while and retreated into my head. This whole episode was going to be blogged. I started then.
The 30 minutes passed in… well… 30 long minutes. Time does not fly when you are not having fun. It drags. My jersey sleeve was all wrinkled and was pressing on my elbow bone – it had started to hurt like hell. Was a relief to be able to move again.
The relief was short lived.
She wiggled me around some more and horror of horrors – zooted me further under the camera. My whole head was now under the plate-like box thing. It was even closer to my head. Thought about panicking… then gave myself a strict talking to. How old are you Virginia? 12? Buck the fuck up!
Closed my eyes. It made the claustrophobia worse. So opened them again. The floaters in my eyes drifted off to the side of the plate – out of sight. Hey! Come back – I thought. Play with me. But no – they disappeared. Meanies.
Blinked a few times to see if I could conjure up any more. Nothing. Ho hum… what to do? I am not a person who likes just lying around doing nothing.
Picked a spot on the plate and disappeared into my head again. The blog blanked – so I retreated to my happy space – a Chris De Berg Concert that my lovely husband had treated us to earlier this year – the one where he touched my hair (no really – he did – but you’d have to read the blog to find out how it happened). Replayed every single song that I could remember in my head – bitching to myself when I could not remember the words.
That bout thankfully did not last 30 minutes. I was told to go and sit in the reception for 40 minutes and rub my arm a lot – so that the nuclear meds could reach the node under my arm pit. (Don’t think my circulation was that fabulous at that stage.)
I scuttled off on shaking legs and texted my man. He’d come and find me as soon as he’d finished his breakfast.
Breakfast! Jeez – was not hungry but would have killed for coffee.
In the process of the nuclear meds imaging, I had gleaned another little gem of information. The gamma probe that my doctor was going to use to grovel in my lymph node was broken (that could also have been why the op was postponed – but why the hell didn’t the dilly woman tell me that) and so the rep was coming out with a new probe and was going to demonstrate to my doctor how to use it… ON ME!
Holy shite! Was starting to feel very nervous about this whole operation. Chris and I agreed we might need a discount if this was going to be a learning operation. Literally.
The second bout in nuclear meds was not too bad – or too long – thankfully. She drew under my arm and stuck plasters on the blobs – apparently this would enable my doctor to find the node – somewhere in that region. She also told me that she would be there – during the operation to provide information or help interpret the scans… or something. I was relieved – at least they would not be lopping off my boob or anything.
Chris and I grabbed the blanket off the wheelchair and opted to walk back to bed number 13. By now it was around 11h30.
I’d been handed the pictures. In a sealed envelope – with my doctor’s name on it.
Back in the ward I was given the hospital garb to don. That sexy gown with the open back and the ever sexier knickers. Went off to the loo and stripped.
Bit crazy really because the ward’s warm but the toilet’s freezing.
Put the gown on – wrapped the ties completely around me and considered tying them under my boobs. Refrained. Put the knickers on. Clearly the wrong way round. Took them off again and put them on the other way. Took them off yet again and gave them a shake. Maybe I’d used a leg hole for the waist… hmmmm… fell around giggling in the loo – WTF? Could have fitted three of me in that one pair of bloomers.
Zooted back to No. 13 and leapt in. More forms needed to be filled in.
After the nurse had departed, Chris picked up the envelope and held it up to the light. We could not see much. But my lovely husband is not a genius for nothing – he hauled out his cell phone, flipped on the light and positioned it behind the envelope. We could read everything. Of course, it didn’t make much sense to us, but at least we stopped feeling excluded.
By now my nervous level was sky-high and darting all over the place. Was full into corny joke mode and started chatting to my ward neighbours. Poor Chris was doing the cringy thing again. Did not get to torture everybody for too long because another dude pitched up.
Funny how life changes in the blink of an eye. Three weeks ago I was a bit neurotic about going to the dermatologist to check out a mole. This Friday I go for surgery…
Part I – Eating the Frog
A few years ago my thyroid blew. This meant that I was on chronic meds and had to go see the GP every 6 months to get my prescription renewed. The first time she saw my arm she freaked… “That has to go!”
I was a tad nonplussed because she’d just told me that I had to have a pap smear at the same time. Seriously – this Dr thing sucks. So I pitched up on the designated day – ready to have the mole on my arm obliterated as well as being checked out for cervical cancer.
By my GP took a second look at my arm and declared that it did not actually look so bad – and decided we should rather just keep an eye on it. I did not get away with the pap smear thing so lightly – but all was good.
This continued for a couple of years – each year she’d check out the mole and go hmmmm…. Looks okay.
This year she looked at the mole and freaked. OMG!!! When did that get so large?
Whaaaaatttt – I replied. It’s not so big. Think a few freckles joined hands – that’s all. But she persisted. It must go.
So take it out – I re-joined.
But no… it turned out that said mole was a tad too large for my GP to comfortably remove. A dermatologist was the order of the day. Or we could let her hubby loose on my arm – he’s a surgeon. But I figured that it was stupid hacking out the whole thing if it was not necessary – rather check it out first.
My GP looked at me sadly and said that their tame dermatologist dude had just died. They would have to find me somebody else. They did too. I was informed that I was really lucky- everybody else was fully booked until August but I had a date booked for the 24th April – a couple of weeks away. I smiled and nodded gratefully, muttering under my breath that I would not mind waiting until August.
So I ate the frog. Let it be known that there are other froggies that have hopped away… the mammogram, the bone density… like I said – I am not fond of this stuff. Let sleeping dogs snooze and all that.
Fast forward to the 24th April. I figured the dermatologist would refer to me to a surgeon if necessary. I was fully expecting to leave intact. I arrived at the place – breathless and a bit late because I had taken a few wrong turns – despite my lovely husband having shown me the way the previous Saturday.
The dermatologist was really awesome. Lovely, cool, calm and collected. She checked out my arm and recommended that we remove the middle section of the mark on my arm – the bit that had the dodgy looking mole. Swift and simple – she needle numbed the spot and removed it chop chop – deftly stitching it up thereafter. I was beyond impressed.
She also had fabulous art work on her walls that I, without my glasses, fondly imagined looked like a fairy tale tree. Turned out it was actually a picture of a follicle.
Dr Carpenter (hahahah – my lovely husband pointed out the irony of this later) would send the bit of flesh off to be analysed and would call me if there was anything to worry about. Because there were a spate of public holidays approaching – she’d probably only get the results in just over a week. I was to have my 3 little stitches out in two weeks. If she had nothing to report I would get my results when I had them out.
D-Day arrived and I approached the day with butterflies fluttering around my tum. But no ominous calls were received, despite the fact I eyed out my phone carefully. No calls the next day. Nor the next… Then it was weekend. On Monday I noticed that I missed a call from the dermatologists. Truly – I did not give it a second thought. They were calling to remind me about my appointment for the next day to have my stitches removed. I did not even bother to return the call.
After lunch on Monday Dr Carpenter called and told me that the news was not that fabulous. A melanoma. But I should not panic or anything because we had caught it early and it was not deep. However – protocol demanded that a surgeon remove more of the said spot.
Feh! I brooded on the news for a couple of hours and then decided I needed to share. My lovely husband came dashing home. Was a bit of a blow to say the least. I had become complacent because I had not heard from Dr C in the designated time. So I assumed all was well.
Tootled off the following day to get my stitches out.. Turned out the lady who was supposed to do this task was not at work that day and Dr C herself took them out. Painless! She exclaimed that the scar she had given me was negligible… but sadly that was not going to last. She gave me letters for my GP and the potential surgeon.
I admit to procrastinating on the way to deliver those letters.
A few hours later my GP called me back – commiserating on the shitty outcome. We agreed that she would get her receptionist to make an appointment with her husband, the surgeon for me. But only after the 10th – we had a fancy awards ceremony for Chris on that day. I needed to be whole. Also mentioned in passing that the dermatologist had said it would not be a big deal – could probably be done with local anaesthetic.
My GP laughed uproariously. No, probably not, she said. There are lymph nodes involved and centimetres that need to be removed.
My spirits plummeted.
Said appointment was duly made for the 11th May at 09h30. We got there – a lot of minutes early. I filled out the form. Wrongly.
Chris gently removed the clipboard from my shaking hands and filled it out correctly.
The receptionist or whatever you call that person was jabbering on the phone. She kept saying “My doctor this, my doctor that…”
I admit – my evil twin sister emerged and I mimicked her irritating voice saying “My doctor, my doctor… I’ve also got a doctor… but he’s not a proper doctor.”
Chris cringed. I waited expectantly for a laugh… nothing. Not a peep. Stony silence. Ooopsie.
So right then and there I shot my own self in the foot. (Aaahhhhh – say those of you who might have read my Facebook posts from the past two days. No wonder her op got so screwed up! Never mess with the receptionist.)
The Dr emerged and ushered me into his room.
What can I do for you? he politely inquired? I was completely thrown. WTF? He was supposed to have gotten all the grizzly details from my GP – his very own wife. They had told me they’d already given them to him…
So I explained. Feeling like a bit of a tit – because said dodgy spot had now been removed, the stitches had healed really well and it just looked like a bit as though I’d scratched myself.
He eyed the mark out suspiciously. When did all this happen? Two and a half weeks ago was my reply.
Hmmm… he needed to see the histology report. He excused himself and went out of his room. My heart pounded a bit more.
He came back and did all the doctory thing like… tapping my tum (WTF?), listening to my innards, checking that I could swallow.
Then explained patiently how the whole thing worked. He even drew me a picture. It was like an ellipse – if the spot was so big – then 2cm would removed – but obviously they cannot close up a circle without a skin graft – so for every 2cm width – they need to cut 3 x that in length so they could yank it all together (my words- not his). But because he had not seen the histology report he did not know if it would be 2cm or 4cm… I told him that it was early stage, but he just stared at me. He’d wait and see.
That dastardly evil twin kept rearing her head and I cracked one joke after the other… about old arms… and yay for me – I was finally going to sample some nuclear medicine after working at iThemba LABS all those years…
Turns out the man has no sense of humour. Not a shred. Not a blip. I did not raise a single lip curl. Clearly he and his receptionist get on well.
He told me he operated Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Let’s do it, I replied and chose the first available day.
His lovely lady handed me a form – in Afrikaans nogal – with all the descriptions and codes that we needed to go and pre-book into hospital for the following week. She had the last laugh because she gave us a wrong code which caused havoc and much to-ing and fro-ing.
Eventually I emailed her and got a terse little very unprofessional one-liner back in response.
“0311 should not be used.”
Chris later told me that she took a private phone call when she was supposed to be finding out what happened to the histology report. He was sitting listening and getting more and more pissed off with the length of time she took to get around to the simple little task of providing “my doctor” with the information he should have had before I ever saw him. Not sure what went down there but I sure as hell will ask my GP.
The date was set for the following Wednesday (16th May). In addition to having my arm excavated, I would need to have the lymph nodes investigated – hence the nuclear meds – to check that the cancer has not relocated itself to other parts of my skanky bod!
The day before the op at 10h49 I get an SMS from the anaesthetic dudes which went like this… :
“Ur anaesthetics tomorrow code 1439×60 min(avg time)= R3981.06. Arrange with your m/aid for PMB auth Celliersstr. Narkose Dienste.”
I dutifully emailed this info off to the medical aid. Also tried to call but after waiting for 5 minutes (no really) I got chucked off the system each time.
Then I get a call from the lovely Dr’s receptionist – Due to “unforeseen circumstances” the operation needs to be postponed to Friday.
I freaked. I want to get this over with. ASAP! There was no apology, no niceness, no freaking eff all. Just would this work for me? I asked what bloody choice did I have? Will this work for me? She repeated with an edge to her voice.
Inquired what needed to be done to sort this out with the medical aid – she said she’d do it for me. Like it was a huge favour!
A few minutes later I get an email from the medical aid saying…
Thank you for the email. We kindly require the following clinical information regarding the lesions:
Size of the lesions, how long have they been there, are they changing in colour, texture or size, are they painful/sensitive, are they bleeding, which area of the body are lesions on.
Upon receipt of this information the request for authorisation will be referred to our medical advisor for review.
I zapped off a scathing letter – including some photos saying I hoped the medical adviser found that the lesion looked suitably cancerous, and that I was not in the habit of having myself chopped up for fun. Really – I was beyond pissed off. Copied Chris and he phoned to commiserate.
Still utterly bedonered the day drew to a close with nothing really resolved – except for the fact that the operation had been moved to Friday and I would be lumped with another freaking 3 nights of even less sleep than usual.
The next morning the lady from the medical aid phoned – turns out she thought this anaesthetist cost was going to be x 60 instead of figuring out it was the total cost for 60 minutes and she had called the Dr. to find out what exactly what procedures they were going to do.
The stupid blah blah fishpaste receptionist at the Dr said she did not know what they were talking about and instead of involving me in the conversation – the whole operation got postponed from Wednesday to Friday.
I know this does not seem a very long delay in the great scheme of things- but it’s shit enough finding out that you have a melanoma (even if it is an early stage one) and knowing that you have to have an operation – whereby your arm is going to undergo another cut that is going to take weeks to heal again… as well as biopsies on lymph glands to check that it has not spread without being jerked around by a shitty unhelpful receptionist.
She could have avoided the whole delay.
Note to self… NEVER EVER rip off a silly receptionist again.
Note to all receptionists… Don’t fuck with a person who writes.
This is a tribute to three lovely rays of sunshine. Strong women who totally brightened up my life, and many others, over the years in various ways. They have all succumbed to the bastardly C – but not without a fight.
Somehow the topic of food connects these three lives that were not really connected at all – except through me.
Joansie and Kirstie were probably diagnosed around about the same time – a good few years ago now. You know how Facebook is – there are always things circulating about what to eat or not to eat; what’s good for you; the most miraculous veggie that cures everything; interesting herbs and all that shite. I’d see stuff and point it out to Joan, then email the same info off to Kirstie, who was not a FB fan. Joan would post funny chemo videos and I’d pass along those links to Kirstie for a laugh. I’d only known Kirstie for a couple of years and sometimes I think she thought I was a tad bonkers but she appreciated the fact that she could talk about her illness around me, and not pretend that she was fine.
One is always a bit reticent when a friend is sick – like really sick – do you pussy foot around the topic or do you just come out with IT.
Once Joan had been diagnosed she immediately made a FB group and regularly updated a select group of her friends. This made talking about IT easier. She was always so cheerful and upbeat. She recounted horrendous episodes in a funny way that had a person sort of laughing and crying at the same time. I so admired her take on life.
She’d often post pics of her hospital food – saying how delicious it was. Carefully describing the globs of stuff on the plate. But if I close my eyes the first image I get of Joansie is when we were at Helderberg College way waaaay back in 1979. We were in the dorm together – she was a year or so younger than me so whilst we were not really friends – the dorm was sort of family. Sheesh! She was always Miss Goodie-Two-Shoes. Neat and tidy, with a shiny face and her trademark sparkly cheerful personality. We hooked up again 30 years later in 2009 on FB. Her upbeat personality had not changed one iota. We all held her hand – virtually – commented on wig choices and then celebrated when Joansie beat the bastardly C the first time.
Kirstie embraced a really healthy way of eating after she was first diagnosed – she cut out red meat and alcohol and dived into the fresh fruit and veggie regime. It worked for her.
For a while…
Then the tumours came back with a vengeance. We went out for lunch in 2014 – no rabbit food shite that time – Kirstie was telling me that they had discovered the Spur had a special – two burgers for the price of one. She and her family had tootled off and taken advantage of the deal. I agreed that it was great value for money – only paying for two people. Hell no! She replied with a giggle – we ate two burgers each. We fell around the table laughing.
Another time we went for lunch in 2015 was also funny – although it wasn’t really funny. By that stage Kirstie was very weak and we got her a wheelchair to conserve energy. I wheeled her into the restaurant and everybody leapt to attention and started making space for us to sit down. No thanks – chirped Kirstie – I want to sit upstairs. She proceeded to climb out of the chair and made her way slowly up the stairs. The look on the faces of the other patrons was hysterical.
When I dropped her off at home later I wondered if I would ever see her again. I didn’t.
During the course of our lunch, we somehow got onto the topic of birds. Kirstie told me how she loved little birds and one day she wanted an aviary. A few weeks after she died, I was sitting at my desk, feeling really miserable when a little sparrow type birdie landed on the window sill, pecked at the window until I looked at it. It chirped away with its little head on one side and stayed there for a good few minutes, chatting to me. Suddenly I felt better – like Kirstie had come back to say I’m okay – don’t be sad.
We now call all the little birds in the garden “Kirsties” and make sure there is food for them.
My third friend, Anisabel, was the first to die. She had been to visit us on her way back from England and was looking really skinny. Great, but skinny. So skinny that I passed on a pair of my jeans and they fitted her with room to spare. Unheard of because she had always been considerably larger than me. We just assumed she’d been living a bit frugally overseas, had been walking a lot and had lost weight. Upon reflection, she was tired too – but again – I put that down to jet lag. She was so looking forward to starting her new life in the boondocks on the Garden Route – finally having a bit of money to start her own business. We were talking about making a recipe book “Surviving on a shoestring!”
Anisabel was a great cook. She made really delicious food and iced cakes like an angel. We’d been friends for ever. My children looked upon her as a family member, even though we were not actually related. She made wedding, fiftieth, eightieth and many fancy kids cakes for us. She loved reading as much as I do and we came upon a cheapskate method of gifting – we’d buy second hand books – often read them first and then pass them over. Worked a treat because you could then afford to buy three or four books instead of only one.
While she was visiting that last time, she bought a tub of Liquorice Allsorts at Woolies. She then proceeded to demolish most of them. I was vastly amused – I love the stuff too – but so many! Eish! When she left there were a few rattling around in the bottom of the tub. Here, she said. You finish these.
That same tub is now filled with breadcrumbs in the freezer and every time I use them – I think of Anisabel. She also tossed a peg at me whilst she was packing to leave. It must have been stuck on one of her garments and traveled from England with her. Here, she said. Have a peg. It was nice solid peg, so I clipped it onto the washing powder bag – never realising that I would in fact be having frequent chats to that same peg every time I do the laundry!
She was diagnosed with the bastardly C in December and given three months. No prolonged battle for her. She quickly made her peace with the world and cheerfully lived out those last few months – making jokes about how they would be able to use her for a lawn sprinkler because she’d been stuck with a needle so many times. She did not even reach the target of three months.
Anisabel passed in February 2015 and Kirstie in September of that same terrible year.
I remember Chris had a visiting professor from Jordaan and we’d been taking her around on Heritage Day – showing her all the cool stuff we have in Gauteng. We’d just left Maropeng and I was sneakily checking FB on my cell phone in the car. Went cold as I read a post from Joansie saying that the bastardly C was back. It was like a kick in the gut and to my shame (because this haunts me horribly) being still raw from Kirstie, I messaged her back something along the lines that I had had it with cancer – claiming two friends of mine in one year and she better bloody well be okay. She replied that she hoped she did not make it three! It was not in the same year, but sadly, oh so sadly – she was the third.
Farewell my sunshine-flavoured ladies. You are gone… but not really.