Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Time wasting at Addenbrookes Hospital

Yesterday, Dr Martin the oncologist at WSH, explained the pros and cons of chemotherapy, with sufficient emphasis on the cons that I had no hesitation in declining his kind offer. I told him I would opt for radiotherapy as the definitive treatment. As the oncologist in charge, he arranges the radiotherapy, but rather than doing so he encouraged me to keep the appointment at Addenbrookes to discuss it there.

Addenbrookes is 90 minutes away in heavy Cambridge traffic, so we left at 10:30 for my 12:00 appointment. The carpark was full, so we queued until enough cars had left for us to enter and find a vacant hole. Fortunately, traffic had been light so we arrived on the ward by 11:40, to find the clinics were running and hour late. Finally we were called in to see just the registrar, as Mr Turner was away. He asked if radiotherapy had been explained, and when I said I'd read the leaflet, he said there was nothing he could add to that. I only had two questions: when would it start and finish, and would I be able to go on the holiday we've booked for my birthday and New Year at the end of December. He couldn't answer either of them, and said the radiologist would have to answer these, and he'd write back to Dr Martin to make a new appointment to discuss it all.

The whole thing lasted ten minutes, and was a complete waste of time – I have lost a whole day of my life to be told nothing, and that could have been sorted yesterday. The only good thing was meeting Arthur, a volunteer in the oncology clinic, who found me a leaflet on getting holiday insurance (if we do manage to go!). He also gave me a leaflet about coming to Maggie's, a cancer drop-in centre, and a support group called Fight Bladder Cancer. It contained the line, "we know EXACTLY what you are going through...like most people, panic and fear will be a huge part of what you are experiencing." No, I am not experiencing panic or fear, and have not done so yet. What I AM experiencing is bloody anger and frustration at the lack of joined up thinking between WSH and Addenbrookes.

Radiotherapy already demands that I shall attend Addenbrookes five days a week for four weeks, plus the days round it for checkups and planning. The days left are too few to be wasted like this one  – I am already counting each one as precious, to be treasured. I don't want to spend 4–5 hours for a ten minute talk by a junior doctor to tell me nothing.

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