It took us a while to find the right building as we came into the hospital once again, this time for the pre-chemo information session. Mum had been given instructions over the phone to go to ‘the fourth floor” but had somehow missed the part where they’d specified “in the new cancer centre building” and thought it was in the main part of the large teaching hospital.
Mum has terrible problems with anxiety at the best of times and now Dads ill health has made it significantly worse. Being late is one of her big issues, parking at the hospital is Hell on a good day so we have learned to be early to allow for it.
I dropped them off at the entrance as Dad has a lot of pain now and can’t walk far, then did the loop of the big multi story car park, it takes 15minutes to drive all the way up and down again, sometimes longer and yesterday it took 20. Not a single space was available. The road out of the parking lot was partially closed and I could only make a right turn which then meant a left only onto the Main Street putting me on the wrong side of a dual carriageway to park in the staff & overflow area.
It was oddly busy for the early afternoon and I swore under my breath as I tried to figure out where else to go. I remembered a parking area at a sporting ground about a 5min walk from the hospital that we’d used for antenatal appointments once upon a time and headed over there.
Apparently everyone else had that idea too as it was full too, people had double parked and there were little yellow envelopes under several windscreen wipers where the local parking inspector had been taking advantage of the situation.
My phone ‘dinged’ and I didn’t have to look to know it would be a message from Mum panicking because I wasn’t there yet. I drove around the block and into a neighbouring suburb so I could get turned around on the right side of the dual carriageway to head back towards the hospital overflow.
I finally made it and managed to squeeze my SUV into the last remaining too small gap in the dirt overflow. I jumped out and glanced at my watch – 1:45.
I texted Mum “be there in 5” as I walked up to the hospital. I knew she’d be flipping out at this point because her “15minutes early always” window of tolerance was being breached. I feel sorry for sick people who don’t have anyone to drop them off for their appointments, they expand the buildings at the hospital all the time but the car parking hasn’t been upgraded in decades.
I found my parents in the busy cafe with empty plates & coffee cups, they’d managed to squeeze in lunch while I was hunting for a car space and now Mum was alternating between panicking that I hadn’t had lunch and that we were going to be late. I lyingly reassured her I’d had a huge breakfast and could wait and we headed up to the wrong level 4.
Poor old Mum was shaking and on the verge of tears and or a full blown panic attack when we discovered that we needed to go to the fourth floor of the Cancer Centre and it was at the opposite end of the hospital grounds, you could see her tendon increase with every slow step Dad took and I was half expecting her to internally implode and keel over while we waited for the exceptionally slow elevator.
I attempted to reason with her that they would be okay with our tardiness and given the car park situation I’m sure it’s not exactly uncommon but anxiety doesn’t like to be reasoned with.
We finally found the right building and after Mum rapid fired apologised and made unnecessary excuses at the slightly bewildered looking front desk clerk we were seated in a waiting room.
Mum was still trembling and I was mildly concerned she’d stroke out on me but her fear turned to irritation as she gave me a light death stare then explained her frustration that I’d held us up “even longer” (about 20seconds) in order to double check the floor we needed to go to with the front desk. I apologised to Mum but V was hovering nearby inside, she’s not a fan of the parents in general and got the shits when Mum made the comment, I could feel myself start to dissociate but managed to fend V off a bit.
We waited for 20minutes before being called anyway.
A smiling older blonde nurse greeted us warmly, her name tag read “Veronica” I had to stop myself from laughing out loud for a minute – the reason being We (the system) call V ‘Veronica’ to piss her off, she says that’s not what V stands for but she won’t tell anyone what it actually DOES stand for so we often say “Yes, Veronica” to her in a posh English way when she’s bossy and I had previously commented (inside) “Go away Veronica” in said tone when she got annoyed with Mum, so it was an amusing coincidence because of the running system joke…. I digress.
Dad was having a good day Alzheimer’s wise and was reasonably aware of what was going on. Mum was still trembling like a leaf, if there’s anything she hates more than driving and being late it’s Big Pharma and as previously mentioned, Chemotherapy in particular, and I could see this was killing her.
Veronica-The-Nurse ushered us into the “education room”, a bench with cupboards underneath ran the length of the room, there were mannequin head stands holding a few different wigs and some headscarves & information leaflets displayed along the bench. The back of the room was wallpapered in a vibrant throwback-to-the-70s large bird of paradise flowers and green leaf print.
We were given the nitty gritty on what to expect when we arrived for treatment, ways to combat the common Chemo side effects, who and when to ask for help. Veronica-The-Nurse took us on a tour of the large ‘E’ shaped treatment area was extremely kind and gentle as she listened to Mums concerns, she validated and educated brilliantly, wrote everything down and gave us a swathe if information to take home.
Did you know all waste, um, leaving a patient undergoing Chemo is toxic? So it’s imperative that no bodily fluids come into contact with anyone’s skin (including the patient) as it can cause big problems. So this means we have to try and train Dad to sit down when he pees so nothing accidentally ends up on the seat or the floor and if he vomits on us you have to have a shower straight away, bio hazard style!
I was very impressed by the whole cancer centre actually, they are empathetic, kind and very professional, they also have a coffee shop on the ground floor and a great drop off/pick up point for less car park related hassles next time.
As we headed back down the corridor toward the lift a man at the front desk asked “Have you got a blue slip today?” We said no and he said “no worries, have a nice day”.
An older couple got into the same elevator as us and grinned when Mum commented “I wonder what the blue slip is for?” The lady said “We got a blue slip!” The gentleman smiled cheekily and said “ but we can’t tell you what it’s for, it’s a secret you have to find out yourselves!”
We all laughed about mysterious blue slips as we left the elevator, Mum seemed in a better place, Dad was quite content and more focused on his new found desire to get a coffee than tomorrow’s looming chemotherapy appointment and I went off to find the car.