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  • howardcoombs

Diagnosis (2) Fear tempered with Farce

So, Friday, the day of the meeting with Dr H. I am always early for stuff, if I'm not, I fret and also I think it's rude to keep people waiting. So for an 11.00 am appt we arrived at 10.30.

I know from experience that parking at Stoke Mandeville can be awful and I also wondered how I would be feeling after I was officially told I had liver cancer (the idea that it would be the doctor wreathed in smiles saying 'I just wanted to break the good news, you're fine, in person' seemed unrealistic). So J, my wife, drove me.

Into S.M reception, looked at map on wall, no 'Gastro' dept. I asked at reception. The guy, bored, listless, 'Nah mate, we don't have a Gastro dept.'

'But I've got an appt..'

Another shrug, 'you could try Spinal, they work from there sometimes.'

Down to Spinal. They have their own reception.

'Gastro team,' incredulous frown, 'well what you doing here ? This is Spinal mate.'

'I know, but your colleague said....' I re-explained.

Deep sigh of irritation from man behind glass, 'so, who did you say this Dr was ?'

'Dr H.'

Click of old fashioned keyboard, big chunky plastic keys, 'well, says he she works out of Amersham today, I'd try there.'

10.35 or so. I run out of building calling J on phone. No reply, voicemail. Then I remembered she said she might go to Aldi which abuts SM. Sprint to Aldi.

The morning is not going well.

See her car. Phone again, same result. Run into Aldi, see her in queue. Explain. By now kind of frantic, hopping up and down, sweating.

'I'll just pay for this and then we'll go, we'll be there in time.'

10.45, we're on our way. I have driven this SM to Amersham in 20 mins, today is not too bad but there are traffic lights, HS2 works. J driving sensibly but maddeningly within the speed limit. I try phoning Dr H's dept. ' Please leave a message...

11am Now I'm late

Ten minutes later I sprint up the stairs to the 2nd floor where i normally see Dr H. The place is deserted, like the Marie Celeste. There's a woman behind the counter.

'Dr H ? No, not today, maybe Wycombe ?'

Back down the stairs, then my phone rings, No Caller ID. A male voice, foreign accent, 'Mr Coombs ? We are waiting for you, Dr H asked me to call you, where are you please ?'

'Where are you ?'

'We are waiting for you in Stoke Mandeville.'

I tell my story, then the beautifully modulated voice of Dr H.

' Owarrd ? We can this on the phone now if you'd rather ?'

'Yes please, Dr H.'

And so sitting on a plastic chair in a deserted corridor at Amersham hospital I am officially told that I do indeed have a small ( small, that's good isn't it ?) lesion (What's a lesion, isn't that a cut ? I have a small cut, good, what, oh, lesion is a tumour) on my liver. I have liver cancer. Officially.



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The image is taken from the app on my phone 'Journal'. This was from Sat 23 March. I woke up early (usually it's 7am) and couldn't sleep so I got up. I do meditation daily using an app 'Mindfulness.'

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