Hospital Again And Again


Appointments at The Royal Marsden Hospital alternate between Dr Gavaghan and Mr Harker, and extend from a monthly basis to every six weeks, then to two months and eventually four-month intervals. I go to each appointment with an immense nervousness in the pit of my stomach because it is a check-up to see if the cancer has returned. The routine includes the doctors looking into my throat and externally checking my neck and face. Then it is the nasendoscopy, which involves me sat down facing the doctor wearing a circular head mirror to reflect light into my nasal passage. Local anaesthetic is sprayed up my nose and the 30cm tube inserted into a nostril. A few sniffs and often a swallow so it is into the nasal cavity and down my throat for a good look. I keep my eyes shut for this procedure and concentrate on staying still without retching, so it is over quicker.

So far, I have received good news on each occasion. Immediately, my head spins and I’m literally buzzing as a mixture of relief and happiness wash over me. When I get out of the hospital, I manage a quick text to give Michelle the news and either sit on one of the benches outside The Royal Marsden Hospital or make my way straight to South Kensington tube station. It is during this time I have a bit of trouble. I get a lump in my throat and begin to cough, which leads to stomach cramps, eyes watering and retching. Luckily, I have not thrown up yet and the feeling soon passes. I still have on-going issues with extreme levels of tiredness, together with acute sinusitis, which causes massive headaches that make my forehead, eyes and nose throb with pain. There is also my blocked tear duct but, hey, I am alive!

I have appointments every three months or so with Mr Davies, the eye specialist at The Royal Marsden Hospital. There are complications with my tear duct, which tends to block up as a side-effect of the radiotherapy treatment. Although it is uncomfortable having watery eyes all the time, it is minor. I have had eight tear duct irrigation procedures conducted by Mr Davies on my eyes as a corrective measure. These are supposed to involve a general anaesthetic but, as I do not react well to anaesthesia, Mr Davies agrees to use only local anaesthetic.

I lay down on the operating table while my eyes are sprayed with local anaesthetic. After a few minutes, Mr Davies switches a bright light on and I have to stare into it while he pushes a probe right through the tear duct to clear the blockage. Once it is all the way in, he squirts some saline solution through to ensure there is a clear passageway. It is an uncomfortable procedure and it hurts a bit when he clears the blockage but, if I stay still and look into the light, it is over within about fifteen minutes. I’m given eye drops to prevent infection afterwards and never experience any of the possible complications from these procedures.

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