Different Departments

I am very much set in my ways. Unless I am in a work setting, wanting to impress my superiors, I am not usually a fan of change.

Since I was released from NHNN, all my treatment, bar three scans, three clinic appointments, including the ones I have had this week, and a dose of radiotherapy, have been in the Macmillan Cancer Centre. This week then, has essentially doubled my contact with the UCLH world. Geographically, the centre is not in the main hospital. For patients, it is a self contained little unit, where they test your blood, scan you and treat you, all in one place. Well, over five floors.

I realised after Wednesday, that those of us unfortunate enough to have to frequent the Macmillan Cancer Centre are fortunate to be treated there. Sure, there are often epic delays, the pharmacy inevitably manage to annoy me, and I will always find something to complain about, but we are spoilt. It is so familiar. People are friendly and sympathetic and the majority of staff seem to acknowledge me, whether it is the Costa Coffee Man calling me ‘Late Girl’ or My Favourite Receptionist teasing me about my collection of subtle necklaces. Overall, things run relatively smoothly there and crucially, I know what I should be doing.

The main hospital does not afford that level of comfort. It is a vast pit, full of strangers and strange places. The different departments either do not make any concessions for the big C, or they go too far and talk to me with their head tilted to one side. My Myeloma is not their priority.

Yesterday for instance, I received a voicemail saying that I had to come to the hospital that day for an appointment. The person calling me, failed to tell me the name of the department she was calling from, which most definitely got me in quite the pickle when I got round to listening to the message. It turned out that the call was from the Reproductive Medicine Unit, and I was not required for an appointment that day, it was simply regarding an injection which I had arranged with a doctor on Wednesday. It sounds like a minor thing, but I know that that sort of message would not be left by somebody in the cancer world, unless there was actually something wrong. Even if something was wrong, I probably would not receive a voicemail message. Normally, my messages from the clinic tend to start with ‘don’t panic’. Given the tests I had on Wednesday, I think a certain level of anxiety on my part is justified. I felt like there was a lack of understanding, a justifiable lack given the size of the hospital, but still a lack of understanding about my circumstance. This was evidenced by the response I received from another person in the RMU, who was extremely apologetic that somebody would be so vague in a message to me. I did not even complain.

I have experienced a lack of understanding from other medical departments before, from my brief stay at NHNN, to a scan I had, back when I was unable to lie flat and the technician got angry with me for not being able to stand up.

Today, I ventured into the Tower, to the main pharmacy, to collect a prescription, which then needed to be taken to the RMU to be injected. We have our own pharmacy in the Cancer Centre too and I confirm, it is nicer than the main hospital pharmacy. There is only one window and one queue for a start. There I was, waiting to collect a ‘script I put in on Wednesday night and as I waited, they served two people who arrived after me. I did not say anything for I am English, I just looked on in disgust and sweated. Upon reaching the window and handing over my ticket, ticket number 343 if you are interested, they could not find it. After a few minutes of flapping around and not communicating on their part, the girl informed me that my medicine had not be dispensed and there was a note on it saying it should not be dispensed. She asked me to sit and she would find out what the problem was and get back to me in a few minutes. I smiled and said she needed to, because I needed to have the injection administered by a nurse today. She then, helpfully disappeared.

45 minutes later, and after three calls to the generic RMU number, I went back to the window to be served by somebody else, to discover that there was no problem with my prescription and it was awaiting my collection.

I have discovered in my time that the pharmacies do make mistakes, but when I have experienced these previously, back in the place where everybody knows my name, I have known exactly what to do. Instead, I was left waiting in an area warmer than the outside world with 20 other people who were also waiting. No wonder they have a sign saying abuse to staff will not be tolerated.

I did not enjoy it.

I know that, for obvious reasons, I am noticing these things more and perhaps they are bothering me more than they would usually. After all, I do not like change… I sincerely hope that when I am in the Tower for my travels, it is not like my experiences over the last week and the people looking after me, make me feel looked after. If memory serves, they are very nice on T13, and there should be some consistency with my care, because on T13 or T16, they still concern themselves with blood and the Senior Medically Trained People are the same. Please let it be a home away from my Huntley Street home.

As for cross departmental appointments? I’d much rather, not.


In defence of these different departments, there water coolers do come fully stocked with plastic cups unlike those on Huntley Street. Peaks and troughs.