Tuesday, 4 August 2009

How to Get a Wig - Part 1

The phone is ringing. Shivers of nausea course through my stomach. My brain pulsates with a force 10 texas-chainsaw-massacre headache, my chest and shoulders heave. and every muscle groans as my eyes adjust to the light.

I’m experiencing this extra sized misery because I caught a cold. On Sunday afternoon my glands came up. By Monday morning I knew things were going to get rough. I went to see the available GP-du-jour. She issued me with prescriptions for penicillin and Tamiflu then sent me packing with instructions to consult my oncologists before taking either of them and “probably best to stay indoors five days”. My oncologist Suzy Cleator is on holiday.

Several hours later I spoke to a very jovial doctor Leslie who advised me not to take either drug. “I think you’re allowed a sore throat” he kindly said. I accepted the genially offered sore throat but then in the night a Battalion of Trolls visited with jackhammers to pound my head, hot coals to wrack my shoulders, sandpaper to scritch my throat and a bucket of green grey phlegmy oysters to coat my lungs. The next morning kindly Dr Leslie suggested that I start in on the penicillin. “If you’re no better tomorrow we’ll get you to come in” So here I am in bed, nearly unconscious and on the verge of being admitted to hospital with a cold. “Welcome to the world of man-flu” says my friend and not-so-helpful neighbour Royston.

This is my first experience of what a compromised immune system really means. And the phone is still ringing...

”Hello, this is Janine from the surgical appliance department at St Mary’s. I have a letter from your GP requesting a wig for you”. I can immediately tell that Janine is not pleased to have received this letter.” You are not a patient at the hospital.” “No” I agree. “Where are you having your chemotherapy?” demands Janine. “At the Harley Street clinic” I warily reply. “Well, we won’t be able to deal with them” states Janine, flatly. “Well that’s okay, I don’t want you to deal with them, I want you to deal with me. I’m the one who needs a wig”, I say trying to sound brightly optimistic. “But you’re not a patient at this hospital.” “No.” Then you should ask the Harley Street clinic for a wig.” Case closed, she implies but quick as a flash I rejoin with “I did -and they suggested that I contact you.” She parries, “Won’t BUPA give you a wig?” “No.” “Oh, so they don’t provide total care” cries Janine in triumph. I crumple, “I suppose not but I’m still entitled to a wig.” “But you’re not a patient at this hospital” “But St Mary’s is my local hospital and I am entitled to a wig and what’s more I need a wig because I hardly have any hair” I add just to give her the full picture in case she thinks that I am some random transvestite chancer trying to build a free wig collection courtesy of the NHS. Janine considers the futility of the situation. “I’m going on holiday for two weeks, I’ll do my best but I don’t see how this can possibly be sorted out before then.”