One of my lady bumps is actively seeking to kill me and there’s a family history of entanglements with cancer, so I though it prudent to whip them both off before the other one got deadly.
Right oh, said the NHS. You’ll have to see a psychologist. Why? I said. Oh, you know, they said. No, actually, I don’t, I said.
A nice lady started phoning me with appointments, none of which I could make, because I’m really busy right now. Why, I asked, do I have to see a psychologist? Oh, you know, she said. No, actually, I don’t, I said.
Well, she said, they just want to assess your ability to make informed decisions and explore the issues.
I said I hadn’t just woken up one morning with a sudden urge for major surgery but, realising that removal of my left leg would hinder my ability to get on stage, had thus had hit on the happy plan of having the old airbags off. The bi-lateral mastectomy, to use the full Sunday name, was chosen after giving it much thought, serious research, and on very good grounds.
If I had time, I’d happily come and see the psychologist, but since no-one could tell me the point of this exercise, I’d rather work, thanks.
She then dropped the bombshell that this was compulsory because I had made a clearly bonkers decision to have both boobs removed, even though the other one was behaving itself. For now, I said.
Now, how would that make you feel? You make a decision. Everyone medical agrees, but then you have to justify yourself to someone who isn’t part of the clinical team. It’s as valid as having a chat with the cleaner. Actually, NHS cleaners are brilliant, and really worth a ten-minute blether if you walk along beside them as they buff the floors.
Eventually, a pack of psychologists were after me, about five at the last count. They left despairing messages to get in touch, like discarded girlfriends on the phone to their ex after one Lambrini too many.
Ailsa (not her real name, obvs) ran me to ground first. She called to have a “wee chat”. Even over the phone I could tell that her head was tilted to one side and her face was set to “Concerned. Level 5”.
It’s only for an hour, she said. Explore the issues, remember. In an hour. I ask you, how in depth is that conversation going to be? That trickle of dog pee on a hot pavement – that shallow. She used the term “coping strategies”.
“Gin,” I barked, “Friends, family and my mum.” These are not coping strategies, this is called “being human”.
She mumbled something about “support”. I refer to you my earlier comments about my mum. I married a fantastic bloke who cooks, and I made sure the words “in sickness and in health” were kept in the contract. It’s on an old video tape somewhere ...
You, I pointed out, are about 27. I am 58. When you’ve faced bereavement, childbirth, heartbreak, being fired and a bad review in The Scotsman, come back to me, child, with your Big Book of How Does That Make You Feel?
We swiftly and brutally explored the issue of women forced to go to pointless meetings to question their judgement, and that treating women like children who can’t decide what they want for Christmas is downright offensive.
Mental health services are at breaking point right now. Forcing women to go to have a “wee chat” with another stranger is hardly a good use of Ailsa and the gang’s time.
It’s another meeting, another stress for women just when they don’t need it. Mind you, I was enjoying myself.
Finally, Ailsa giggled and said I didn’t need to come in. I think she was afraid I might say: “Hold up, love, I can be there in 10 mins.”
In the end she said, and I quote: “We need to check we’re not dealing with someone who has an ulterior motive.”
To paraphrase: we need to check you’re not trying to get a free breast augmentation on the NHS by the cunning tactic of developing breast cancer. Ailsa wasn’t having some sort of flaky, by the way, it’s in the official guidelines.
Ah, women, we are such perfidious vixens that we’ve found a way to save ourselves £15k by sticking a boob in a microwave.
No wonder they treat us like children.
Psychologists do a great job. People really benefit from seeing them, I’m just not one of them.
Had the offer of therapy been made, I would have politely declined, aware of the fact that someone else could make better use of that time.
Incidentally, no one has suggested seeing a physiotherapist, which, given the old “major surgery” thang, I would have thought sensible?
No? Just me on that?