Seven chemo sessions in and I’ve become one of the oldies in the room. My regular neighbour is just a few weeks ahead of me and her journey will end before Christmas. I must admit to a little twinge of envy, which doesn’t last long. I don’t begrudge her her joy in the slightest.
Much to Archie’s disappointment, I’ve chosen to cut short his back kneading and jump out of bed early. I don’t even have time to organize his breakfast treat – raw egg yolk (he doesn’t do egg whites) as I need to be very early on this particular Wednesday. I’ve requested an extra scan straight after my chemo session, in order to see exactly what the Yew tree’s bark is accomplishing. My doctor suggested I come and see her straight afterwards, so that she could explain it all in language I understood. Princess – yes, she’s not only a qualified nurse but also really royal – hooked me up and made sure my drip was flowing. My magazine lay unopened as I chatted to my neighbours, a visitor and the other amazing nurses caring for us. Before I knew it, my treatment was over, the inevitable injection into my posterior was completed and I was on my way for an ultrasound. A little shiver escaped down my spine as I made my way down the passage. I’d actually asked for this one. What was I thinking? What if the news was not good? Did I really need to know?
I was early for my appointment and settled into an easy chair for the wait. Just then the petite radiographer came around the corner and called my name. She was fifteen minutes ahead of time, but instead of chilling with a cuppa, she’d fetched me. During the ultrasound – the most thorough one I’ve ever had – this amazing woman shared her story. She’d survived breast cancer herself and assured me that keeping myself busy and positive, was the very best way to tackle it. I nodded enthusiastically. Once she’d completed her part of the process, she opened the door to the tall, blue-eyed radiologist, who studied my scan just as carefully and murmured his approval at the progress made. After I’d shaken hands with both these outstanding professionals, the radiographer escorted me back to my clothes cubicle and made sure I was okay, before she went off to her next appointment.
My next stop was Dr Gudgeon’s room. I found her ready and waiting to explain the scan on her screen. She pointed out the significant areas and worked out exactly how much the tumour had reduced by. Yes, it had shrunk a lot. Yes, the Yew tree was doing its thing. No, it wasn’t time to stop yet. I could feel my smile stretching right across my face and noted the twinkle in my good doctor’s eye.
There was time to ponder on the windy journey back to Hout Bay and I thought about my morning at Vincent Pallotti. I’d been taken care of by the most amazing medical team imaginable. From the trainee nurses to the sisters, matron and doctors, I’d been treated with the utmost care and compassion. There was something else to consider too. The radiographer, the radiologist and my breast specialist, are all professionals over the age of 70. And they’re beyond phenomenal. The experience and expertise I’d just experienced, were absolutely priceless.
So what about this retirement thing? Should we put ourselves out to pasture as we hit our 60’s? What about the incredible wealth of knowledge we’ve built up in our own particular fields for over 40 years? Wouldn’t it be better to keep ourselves in the loop, even if it’s not full time? Once again, I find myself teetering on the edge of the retire/don’t retire debacle. My new 2020 desk diary is as yet unopened. I was planning on full time gardening but the incredible experience at the hospital makes me attempt to wrestle the pencil from Archie’s claws. His tail tells me I should pay attention to more important things…