I just experienced karma on the cancer ward – Susan Morrison

The chemotherapy ward at the Western General is never going to win prizes for best interior design, but then, that’s not its job. It doesn’t really need a welcoming atmosphere, because it’s got the staff for that.

By Susan Morrison
Friday, 4th October 2019, 7:00 am
Updated Saturday, 5th October 2019, 2:49 am
Susan can’t abide her platelets moping around like Kevin The Teenager – they need to buck up their ideas. Picture: PA

It does have quite comfy seats, which do that airline reclining thing, so for a few seconds you can pretend you’re not actually getting a shedload of drugs pumped into your system, but flying off to Rio, overlooking the fact that the cabin crew wear bright blue plastic aprons and there’s no wine available on the trolley.

What it does have is a nice view out over the Maggie’s Centre garden. Until last week, I didn’t really get to appreciate it, because I’ve never managed to get a coveted window seat. Ward 1 doesn’t do seat reservations.

This week, I spotted a window seat. I barrelled over, possibly screaming “bagsie the windae seat”. I may have shoved an old lady out of the way. Sisterhood be damned, I thought. Even the most ardent feminist parks her values when there’s a chance of a nice view on the chemo ward.

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Bingo, thought I, as I settled my bahookie down. This’ll do, I thought. Should have remembered that the goddess of chemo was probably watching and saw me ding the old dame in my scramble for a seat with a view.

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I glanced up. A pair of nurses were heading my way. It’s generally not a good sign when they come at you in twos. It means news, and chemo treatment usually has two types of news. No news is good. It means you are basically trudging on like one of Napoleon’s soldiers retreating from Moscow. Still breathing? Good. That’s pretty much all you need to know.

And then there is News. That ­usually comes in the form of one of the aforementioned nursing double acts bearing down on you with at least one brightly coloured form in hand. You can usually judge how bad the news from the smiles. A biggish smile means ‘setback’. A tight smile means ‘oh oh’.

If ‘setback’ is the lower end of the scale, and ‘oh oh’ is the top, these smiles veered more towards setback.

My platelets are little slackers

There was. The chemo could not go ahead. Blood tests had revealed that the platelet count in my bloodstream had crashed further than the financial markets do every time Boris opens his mouth. One nurse actually said, and I quote, “your platelets are depressed”.

Platelets are the clever little things that make your blood clot. If you don’t have enough, it takes ages to stop bleeding and makes a right mess of your white shirt. Trust me, I know.

I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t raised to have depressed ­platelets moping about. It’s bad enough with teenagers. These little devils need to buck their ideas up. They have a job to do. Well, said I to the nurses. I can’t be going about with depressed platelets. I’ll just have to have a stern word with these little slackers.

Umm, they said, it will take a bit more than a ticking off. Frankly, they said, there isn’t anything you can do. The chemo has destroyed them and we have to wait until the numbers go back up. So, they said, no chemo for you today.

But, I said, plaintively, I’ve finally got a window seat. Sorry, they said. Blame your platelets.

In the meantime, said one nurse, avoid cutting yourself and getting nosebleeds. This I feel is good advice for life on a general basis, and so I have given up walking about with scissors, razors and broken bottles in my hands.

I’m still a bit puzzled as to how I can actively avoid a nosebleed, ­especially if she meant my nose.

The old lady got my window seat. Karma.