Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Another Jolly Day Out

I have neglected to mention this until now...

In the middle of all the drama in Australia I noticed a small lump on one side of the bridge of my nose. It grew larger. A few weeks ago I went to have it checked out by Dr Jonathan Leonard, a dermatologist. “Hmmm, it looks like a basal cell carcinoma.” My throat tightened, I gripped the arms of the chair. “Carcinoma?” I whispered. I told him that I have only recently been treated for breast cancer. “Well it is a cancer, but a low grade one. It’s not life threatening but you must have it removed. It’s very close to your eye so the procedure has to be done by a specialist.” He referred me to an Opthalmic surgeon, Mr Naresh Joshi.

Mr Joshi could quite safely be described as “Mr Jolly” He explained to me that the lump was quite close to my eye but, luckily, not so close that removing it would damage the tear duct. He further explained that it did indeed look like a basal cell carcinoma and that’s a good thing: “If it was a malignant melanoma you’d probably be dead in three months,” he added, gaily. But it will only get bigger, so it has to go. “We can do it under general anaesthetic or local. Which would you prefer?” I told him that I had two generals last year and was about to have another so I really would prefer it to be a local. “That’s fine, but it is best that we sedate you.” We agreed to defer the procedure until after Mr Hadjiminas had done the surgery on my back.

Today is the day. I have to be nil-by-mouth from 7.30 a.m. so I get up early and force down some toast, an apple and a nice cup of tea. As I’m getting dressed and planning the day it occurs to me that it might not be such a good idea to drive to the hospital if I am to be sedated. I call Justin. He kindly hauls his arse out of bed and is soon outside my door, avec automobile. He drives me to the Bupa Cromwell hospital.

Sedation, I had imagined, would be something like a Valium – to relax me so that I won’t flinch or leap from the couch as Mr Joshi comes at my eye with a scalpel. “Ok, we’re just going to give you some sedation,” says the anaesthetist and injects cold liquid into my hand. An hour later I wake up on a trolley. My hand is clasped around a tube of ointment. I look at it in drugged puzzlement. Someone must have tucked it into my hand whilst I was under. Soon Mr Joshi arrives. “We sent the tissue to the lab. It was a basal cell carcinoma but we didn’t get it all out so we’re going to have to do a bit more.” The theatre nurses wheel me back around to the anaesthetic room. An hour later I wake up again. Now there are two tubes of ointment on my lap.

Sheldon has been by to collect me but has gone away again. I call him and reschedule the pick-up.

Back in my room I order up an omelette, some soup, a round of sandwiches, a plate of fruit salad and a pot of tea. I haven’t eaten for twelve hours. My head clears and I take stock of my surroundings. The Bupa Cromwell, I observe, is not a patch on the Harley Street Clinic. The lobby is all marble and glitzy but upstairs it is decidedly dilapidated. The nurses are kind and professional but you can tell that they are very short-staffed. The phone in my room is out of order, the air conditioning cannot be turned off and the room is freezing. An engineer comes and lays some towels over the vents to try to rectify the situation. The bedside light switch doesn’t work. The foot end of the bed will not go up and down as advertised. The toilet roll holder falls apart when I touch it. I think I have become something of a hospital snob.

I don't want to stay here any more. I'm delighted when the phone rings. It's Sheldon, "Lily, I'm downstairs."