Thursday, 13 August 2009

Everything I Know About Marketing and Distribution

Chemotherapy session number four. I came back from the hospital about two hours ago and I’m racing to get this piece done before I feel too ill to write.

Jamie picked me up from Harley Street with instructions to drive at top speed to Ottolenghi for rose and vanilla cupcake supplies. Then we drove straight home and ate them before I started gagging.

The nausea started mildly in the car but now it is becoming gross. I've already taken three different anti-sickness medications. I’m hungry but I can’t bear to eat anything more substantial than a grape. I feel dizzy. I have a headache. I’m only telling you all this so that you’ll know what a committed person I am, battling against adversity to bring you my blog.

Actually, writing helps to take my mind off how revolting I feel.

I made a radical decision today – not to wear the ice hat. My appointment with Suzy Cleator wasn’t until the end of the day so I couldn’t discuss it with her beforehand. I talked it over with the nurses, trying to weigh up the pros and cons:- It is so painful. It makes the chemotherapy session three hours longer than it would otherwise be. It looks ridiculous. And most of my hair has fallen out anyway.

On the other hand there is some hair clinging to my cranium. Maybe that is worth trying to save? And I still have most of my eyebrows and eyelashes, I definitely want to keep those.

The nurses tell me that, in order to administer the ice hat, they will have to apply barriers of wadding to the most moth-eaten-baldy patches on my head. This is done to avoid scalp burns. They also explain that the ice hat will do nothing to save my brows and lashes. Well that’s the clincher. Feeling comfortable with my decision, I settle into my Lazyboy recliner for a cosy session of hideously toxic but life-saving chemicals and chats with the lovely nurses.

I’m most cheered by the way that, every time I go into the chemotherapy unit, one or other of the nurses compliments me on my appearance. Then nurse Bess usually shouts out “She always looks great”. It is simply the ultimate cherry of flattery on my cake of vanity.

You occasionally read about psychotic-serial-killer nurses but I’ve yet to come across one who was not some sort of reincarnated angel. No matter how grim the personal circumstances of their day might be they invariably manage to put on a bright smile and find the generosity to put me first. They seldom bitch about rude and demanding patients who don’t even bother to remember their names. You hardly ever hear them moan about the shift work, having lunch breaks at four-o’clock in the afternoon, dealing with hazardous, toxic and just plain disgusting substances, commuting vast distances or working obscenely long hours for scant cash. The first inkling anyone gets that the situation is intolerable is when the nurses suddenly leave the profession that they’ve spent years training for.

Bess settles down at my side with her raspberry red syringes and tells me about her plans to start a fashion website when she goes home to Australia. “Eh, what about nursing?” “Oh I don’t want to do it anymore” she replies breezily. I am torn between wanting to encourage her in her venture yet wanting to discourage her from abandoning her vocation. I have to admit that, for a fashion-loving girl like Bess, the uniforms are a nightmare. But what about the rewarding sense of self-fulfilment?

On reflection, I realise that the whole of society relies on that sense of self-fulfilment – we don’t reward them in any tangible way. I pause for a minute. Would I be a nurse? No, I would not. I am just grateful that there enough young women, and some men, who are altruistic enough to pursue nursing whilst they are still resilient enough to enjoy life with nothing more than an oyster card, pot noodles and beer. And that a few of them have the tenacity to stick it out into the ancient reaches of 30-plus, going on to become ward sisters and whatnot.

“So, that sounds like a good idea. It’s quite ambitious. Have you thought about marketing and distribution. “ I say, hedging my bets. Luckily for me, Bess does not reply: “No, please tell me everything you know about marketing and distribution.” I quietly let the topic slide.

Later on Suzy Cleator looks at me across her high-end specialist’s desk in a kind yet pained sort of a way. She is, after all, my consultant. I’m aware that I’ve just changed my treatment plan without consulting her. “Oh well, I can always start the ice hat again next time” I blurt. “You will probably lose your remaining hair this week.” I do admire her matter-of-factness. This is not a situation where soft-soaping is required.