Dear NHS Trust,
I had breast cancer and the NHS saved my life. So why am I writing a complaint?
I write because the NHS is my best shot to stay alive. I write because all the users of the NHS are its best shot at survival. We are interdependent. Much as the umbrella needs the hand of the person standing in the downpour.
I made it through treatment and it worked for me. But cancer doesn’t stay in the past. It doesn’t go quietly. At any moment I could feel that difference in my body. I could hear the words that ends worlds: “I’m afraid it’s come back.”
So I live with cancer, as I always will.
Every year until I hit the menopause and oestrogen is no longer my frenemy, my mechanical sentry is the mammogram machine. My body is manoeuvred and manipulated and examined with invisible light. I’m lucky to have it. I’m grateful for the gentleness of the nurse, her compassion for my scarred body. Thankful for the knowledge and certainty the machine delivers.
Usually it takes two weeks to receive that knowledge. It is a long two weeks but I’ve learned how to cope. I’m a pro at ‘scanxiety’. No longer do I lie prone on the sofa watching any images on the TV in order to just not think. To just not be in the world where horror and terror lie. No longer do I lay awake in bed every single night unable to escape now the dark has come and there is no more distraction.
Now I have meditation. And mindfulness. And acceptance of my own death. But knowledge and information are the pillars that my mental health is built on. So when I heard that my mammogram results would take eight weeks to be sent out to me, that support strut started to crack.
Luckily I have backups to lean on. One of those is my need and ability to write it out, to complain.
So hear my plea. Please find the radiographer to read those scans, the clinician to approve their deductions, the clerical assistant to write out the words.
Bring me knowledge. Shore up my foundations.