I never thought I would actually get to hear the word ‘discharge’ at the haematology unit where I was treated for non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma six years ago. But I heard it today, after being examined by my consultant. In the way of these things, it came in the middle of something else, another conversation, not quite throwaway, but part of the normal reach of the words we use to pass the time of day when someone is kneading you under the armpits.

‘It is entirely up to you, Mr Wilson. We could discharge you back to your GP, or just check up on you once a year. The statistics show us that if you are going to relapse it won’t be on one of your visits to us.’

I said thank you and ummed and erred a bit, and then plumped for the once a year option, like you do. ‘I rather like being in the system,’ I said.

‘And anyway,’ she replied, ‘if you do feel unwell, you can just ring up and bring it forward.’

I feel I have the best of all worlds, on this bright spring morning. I am not officially discharged, but may as well be, in terms of the levels of anxiety my doctors are now displaying about my chances of relapse. I think this is the nearest to elated I have felt since I was told I was officially in remission. I may buy some champagne later, or that Kenneth Koch Collected I have had my eye on for some time now. Or just ride my bike for a bit, wonkily, of course, but in my own fashion, and at my preferred speed.

It’s Changed


on the ward where they filled me

with life-saving chemicals

which made my hair fall out.


Denise is wearing make-up.

There is brown toast in the café.


We discuss the important things,

like the weather,

but never what happens here,

the binging of the drips.


Jörn would have hated it.

He’d say it was too fucking quiet

and why weren’t we dead yet,

didn’t we have homes to go to?


The doctors seem younger.

One of them leans on a wall

reading someone’s chart

in what looks like a nightie.


from Riddance  (Worple Press, 2012)