Monday, October 01, 2007

Everyone who has ever helped me get well

In the style of Tracey Emin's tent, here are all the people that ever helped me through this breast cancer malarkey. Medically speaking this is. I realise that if I widened the net to include non-medical help, I'd be here forever (thankfully). And I also realise the list below represents only those who I can put a face or a name to. There are many more behind the scenes.

But this, if I were to do it, would be the starting point for approaching the photography portrait project idea.

1. Dr Salim - My GP, who confirmed I wasn't imagining the lump and referred me to....
2. Professor Mokbel - Breast Surgeon extraordinaire
3. The radiologist - said to be one of the finest in the country, I now can't remember his name, but it was in the room with him where I first knew it had to be cancer. His tone of voice changed subtly and it clicked. Not sure whether I am grateful to him for this or not in retrospect.
4. Anne Anderson - Breast Care Nurse at the Princess Grace who I cried at for about two hours straight after diagnosis. And she let Rich eat her sandwiches.
5. Dr Alison Jones - My oncologist and downright decent, straight-talking, no-nonsense lady
6. Clare - My Breast Care Nurse at Harley Street. A stalwart of care and concern throughout the hideousness of chemo and beyond.
7. The Look Good Feel Better Ladies - Looking back this was a ridiculous time to attend the group that tried to show you how to LGFB when you've got no hair (I still had hair) but it was meeting other patients there that was so significant
8. Dr Aubrey Bristow - great surgeon, terrible conversationalist. Good thing we don't pay him for the latter, but I still get compliments on how neat my port scar is. Better be nice about him as he may yet be removing it, so he could still wreak som damage if he wanted to.
9. Kirsten Watkins - The oncology nurse who looked after me personally on all but one of my chemos. Lovely smiley kiwi lady.
10. All the other oncology nurses including the funny camp French guy, and the cuddly little Indonesian lady, and the laughing, bosomy black woman.
11. The quiet Asian doctor who gently took care of me when I had an inflamed oesophagus from the steroids (after chemo 1), and again when I contracted the throat infection (after chemo 2).
12. Rita, the practice nurse at my GP's surgery - who was responsible for gently administering the Neulasta injection after every chemo. She is also a great gossip and another shoulder to cry on. There's been a few...
13. The Macmillan reflexology therapists - one with mad black hair and one with mad red hair.
14. The paramedic on his bike who waltzed in with the cameras after I fell down the stairs. The one that called me "a fighter" on national TV.
15. The paramedics in the ambulance that took me to St Thomas's.
16. The A&E doctor at St Thomas's who saw me with my ankle. Unfortunately he's also the one responsible for making me believe, for almost 24 hrs, that I might have cancer of the ankle. However silly that seems now, it was hard to decide if this guy helped enough to warrant inclusion on the list. In the end he just made it, if only for making me realise that I have to get used to the panic that will accompany any little ailment from now on.
17. The female doctor on the ward in Weymouth Street who saw me at some ungodly hour for blood tests and x-rays when I contracted the chest infection after chemo 6.
18. Dr Kathryn Piggott - my radiotherapist and cut from the same cloth as Dr Jones. Razor sharp, down to earth, great woman.
19. Rosa at Macmillan – Rosa takes the bookings for all the therapy and manages everyone's time and involvement. She pesters you if you DON'T take up their offers of free stuff.
20. Maureen, the Macmillan Psychologist, who has listened to me for one hour already, and will probably listen for many more.
21. The rest of the gang at Macmillan. They are all lovely, warm women, most of whom do this just out of the goodness of their heart. I remember being slightly confused at the effusiveness with which one introduced herself to me when accompanying me from the LGFB group to Weymouth Street. It was early days for me and I had that Londoner internal mistrusting reaction of 'If you're not to be treating me, why are you so keen to get to know me?'. There seemed no need. Now I'm at the arse end of the process, I see what role they play and how important they are. I met that same woman again the other day, and to see a familiar face to greet in the corridor makes all the difference between a cold, clinical hospital experience and a place which feels more like you're visiting a friend's house, or walking down a corridor in the office.
22. Myriad Radiotherapy Nurses – Some of their names I know, some of them I don't. Bronwyn, Scott, Tiffany, the little blonde one, the slighter more mature one that was excited about going to eat at The Fat Duck in Bray on Friday, the strawberry blonde who has a birthday one day after mine, and so on.
23. The Pharmacist at Harley Street - I never previously gave Pharmacists much credit for their work with patients but being at the receiving end of a LOT of drugs this summer, I now realise how vital their role is. Sometimes specialists would make mistakes and leave out certain prescriptions but a chat with this lady soon sorted it all out. And she's another corridor face that greets me to help it feel a more familiar place.
24. The reception team at Harley Street. They've covered for me when I've had to store my bike in the corridor when I've forgotten my keys, and they knew me by name after just a few appointments. And one of them came and found me at 7.45am one morning when I was sitting in the wrong waiting room wondering where everyone was. No mean feat considering it was up several flights of stairs and he was the only one on duty down there at the time.

There are more, and I've bound to have forgotten some vital contributor to what has been a long and gruelling process. But this is a start to going some way to recognising the help I've had, and the help they also give to thousands of other women, and very occasionally, a few unfortunate men as well.


Kim said...

Hi Anne-Marie. I found your blog a couple of days ago and have been catching up on your story. I am a fellow breast cancer survivor...I was just diagnosed last May and am in the middle of chemotherapy. I absolutely love your idea of putting together a photographic display of your caregivers...I think it's a wonderful tribute to all the unsung medical personnel in the world who all help us through this stuff. You have definitely inspired me to make a list of all the people who have helped me so far so that I never forget them.

Anne-Marie Weeden said...

Hi Kim
Thanks for your comments. I hope your treatment's going well - by my timing you're probably getting to the really crap bit of chemo when everything starts to get really tough. Hold on in there.
And yes, half the reason I don't remember half of the names on my list is probably because whenever I met them I was doped up to the eyeballs on some chemical cocktail or other. So write their names down - I should have done that from the beginning!
Good luck with everything

Mathieu said...

Hi Anne-Marie,

Hope you arer well. Just came across your blog the other day. Amazing! Food for thoughts as they say, especially when you are on the other side and when you don't always get (or ask for!) such a thorough feedback. It made me laugh so much too!

The funny French camp nurse :-)


Anne-Marie Weeden said...

Hey you! How are you?
Sorry - I've been very bad at checking my blog of late so have only just seen your lovely message! So nice to hear from you. You back in France?
I have such fond memories, in a bizarre sort of way, of you and Kristen helping me out.
And your message just got me to revisit this post and I really enjoyed reminiscing about the various characters that helped me out. You're all stars xxx