Walking into the light


We walked into the brunt light, towards the hospital.

The air was dry, February-cold. Traffic was going about its business. Mostly we kept our eyes on the pavement in front of us.

The waiting room smelled of toast. This came from a serving hatch at the centre of the room, staffed by volunteers. Doctors also queued there, swapping bonhomie with each other.

Nurses came and went, sometimes stopping to call a name, or stoop to touch the arm of a patient. In the corner was a bookstall. The tables were piled with magazines: Country Living, Saga, Devon Life.

I was shown into a small room with a large armchair and a stacking tray full of needles and swabs. In the corner on a desk sat a computer. Next to it a large machine, about the size of a bread-maker.

I proffered my arm for the bloods. They said I had beautiful veins.

A kindly-faced woman appeared at the doorway, cradling a cup of coffee. ‘You must be my new young gentleman,’ she said.

Shaking hands over her desk minutes later, I noticed she had the same radiant twinkle. She spoke slowly, asking us to start at the  beginning and describe why we were here.

Looking us in the eye, she told us the statistics. I had high-grade, diffuse large B-cell, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system. ‘It is increasingly common in this part of the world,’ she said. ‘Nobody knows why.’

Though my lymphoma was high-grade, there was an 80% chance of survival. ‘Oddly,’ she said, ‘though high-grade is so nasty, it is much easier to treat. It’s the indolent kind you need to worry about.’

She said we would need to take the rest of the day off, to come to terms with it. ‘Be kind to each other,’ she said. ‘Not the best Valentine’s present ever,’ she said.

Leaving, we explained we had had gone out for our special meal the previous day, the better to focus on the details.



An earlier version of this post appeared in February, 2014


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