5th September 2018
It’s late in the evening on the night that was to be the start of a journey I never wanted to make. My mum and I made our way to QA Hospital, admission letter from my GP in hand. My eyes swollen through tears and pure exhaustion. I was relieved to have finally been taken seriously, but a part of me knew that I’d be in it for the long haul. I wasn’t quite sure what I was in for, but in my heart I knew the outcome was unlikely to be a good one. My mum was remaining positive, telling me that it would all be ok. I couldn’t even pretend to agree, I was in far too much pain for this to be fixed simply. We’d packed an overnight bag, just in case I would need it. I did, of course. In fact, since that day I’ve packed a bag six further times – I’ve spent more nights on a hospital ward than I have my own bedroom in the last three months. What an achievement. We parked up in the north car park and slowly made our way to the north entrance. I remember everything being very dark and very quiet – not a true representation of the QA I now partly call home. An empty desk greeted us as we entered the hospital, my mum was in a dither, reading the wall map and still having no clue as to where we needed to go. There was an operator phone on the desk for visitors.
“I’m just going to use the phone to find out where we need to go, my darling. Did you want to sit down for a minute?”
I sat on one of two armchairs positioned in front of the desk. I was shattered. My legs felt weak and the pain in my side was getting worse – I wanted to curl up in a ball and sleep forever, I was done by this point. A lady and her elderly mother joined us in the reception area.
“Go and sit down, mum, I’ll get us a taxi”
The elderly lady came and sat next to me on the spare armchair.
“Hello” She had the friendliest face with the warmest of smiles.
“Hello” I managed a tiny smile back.
“Oh dear, are you okay?”
I tried, I tried so hard to stifle it, but I couldn’t help it, I burst into a full on sob “Not really”
“Oh, my lovely, did you need a hug?”
And there we were, two complete strangers, hugging in the half-lit entrance to the place I would unknowingly spend the next 19 days. The place I would be diagnosed with cancer. The place I now dread coming to. The place I feel both safest and unhappiest.
The elderly lady asked me what was wrong. I told her I was in a lot of pain, and that I was scared.
“Well, sweetheart, I’m 86 and I’m still going, if I can do it, so can you”
And in that moment I felt oddly looked out for. I wasn’t aware of anything at that point, I didn’t know that I was essentially dying, but for a brief while I felt as though it really would be alright.
So there we have it. It’s been a terrifying three months, but the first person I met when I initially entered QA was my very own version of an angel. And I truly believe that her warmth and compassion has helped me in my darkest moments.
And I hope that when I’m 86 I still remember her. My 86 year old angel.