I’m calling her Ruby although this isn’t actually her real name. I don’t want to identify her but I wanted to write about something she said.
After the drama of my last visit, my chemo treatment has now become almost an all-day affair. While I always have a friend or two on hand to keep me company- this week it was Kath and Chantal – Ruby is often alone. But don’t go thinking that Ruby is a helpless old lady.
This week hospital was the busiest I’ve ever seen it. It was late morning when we arrived. There wasn’t a spare chair in the place.I was given a bed that was free on one of the main chemo wards. Everyone around me had more miles on the clock and seemed much sicker or sleepier. I offered the bed to the patients who had chairs in case anyone else fancied it. I had no takers.
The bed proved to be a perfect picnic table. We laid out our lunch on the white sheets. Ruby had also come prepared. She too preferred not to eat the hospital food. With one arm attached to an IV drip she wasted no time in calling Kath over to help get her lunch out of her bag. My friend arranged it on the table in front of Ruby.
“Can you get me a coffee now please?” She then said to Kath.
It wasn’t a question. Ruby asked in way that was friendly but also confident and assertive. She didn’t apologise or prefix it with a “hope you don’t mind”, or “can you do me a big favour”. She knew it wasn’t too much to ask. Ruby was hooked up to the drip which was plugged into an electricity socket at the wall. She had toxic drugs dancing through her veins. While Kath was fit, healthy and just visiting.
I’ve known Ruby for a while. She has absolutely no problem in asking anyone who’s passing to get her a coffee – milk, three sugars – from the trolley in the corridor.
It might seem like such a small thing but having this sort of no nonsense approach is so important when it comes to your health. I’d been thinking about this a lot after a woman had left a comment on the blog to say that she was about to get tested for ovarian cancer. Her husband had heard an interview I’d done on the radio and recognised some of the symptoms she was having.
In case you’re wondering some of the main ones are bloating, eating less but feeling fuller and abdominal pain.
The problem is that these symptoms are so vague. It can mean it’s difficult to get diagnosed. You need to be determined especially when you suspect something is seriously wrong.
Last month I met an inspirational woman who had ovarian cancer a while ago. When she first had the symptoms, she went to her GP. He said she’d probably pulled a muscle and wouldn’t need any tests. She told him that he was talking rubbish or words to that effect!
Soon after the cancer was discovered. She had a better chance of surviving because she didn’t accept what her GP had said. It just shows how powerful it can be, not taking no for an answer. It’s the kind of attitude that could help to save your life.