This morning I had an appointment at Occupational Health at my local hospital. My route back to the car park took me past the Haematology/Oncology Outpatients Department that Leah attended for the first half of 2013.
I had never been back there since Leah died. I don’t want to have any ‘no-go’ areas in my life, so I knew what I had to do – I went in and sat trembling for 10 minutes in the waiting area. I chose a seat facing where Leah had sat beside me on our first appointment there on Wednesday 23rd January 2013.
On Leah’s 15th birthday – Monday 31st December 2012 – I had taken her to our GP with what I thought were some relatively minor complaints. Thankfully the GP did a blood test.
My GP phoned me on Wednesday 2nd January to say that Leah’s blood was very abnormal and the haematologist was very concerned and asked me to bring Leah straight down to the Health Centre. I told her that we had a similar scare over a blood test when Leah was a toddler and it came to nothing, so I didn’t see any need for people to panic. My GP said that I was making her feel better. Leah had eight blood tests that day.
The GP phoned me the next day to say that there was no evidence of leukaemia in Leah’s blood but her blood test results were still very abnormal. She said that Leah would need weekly blood tests and the haematologist would be keeping a close eye on things.
A few weeks later I arrived home from work to the news that Leah had an “urgent” appointment at our local adult haematology/oncology clinic. I did my best to contain my anxiety and told myself that this was really only a routine precaution just to keep an eye on things in order to out rule anything serious.
As the two of us sat waiting together on Wednesday 23rd January, a nurse bounded towards us and cheerfully asked “Are you waiting for chemo?”
Well, I nearly lost my life.
Outwardly I just shook my head and she went away.
Inwardly I wanted to scream “How dare you think that my child will ever be sick enough to need chemotherapy? How dare you suggest that my beautiful girl will ever lose her lovely hair?”
The nurse had asked the question in the same vein as someone might ask if you wanted sugar in your tea.
I felt like I had unravelled inside. I did not wish to imagine a scenario whereby our child would EVER be receiving chemotherapy.
When we were finally called in for our appointment that day, I explained to our haematology nurse specialist what had happened and how traumatic it had been. She quietly replied “I will take care of that.”
The remainder of our appointment went very well as both our nurse and our consultant were very mindful of Leah’s emotional needs as well as her medical needs.
How naive we were back then though, clutching at straws, hoping and praying that these appointments and tests were unnecessary precautions.
It was the 19th April ’13 before Leah finally received her diagnosis and our naivety rapidly evaporated.
When I arose to leave Oncology/Haematology Outpatients this morning I knew that I had faced another difficult place and conquered another “first”.
I still need to arrange to go back another day and visit the treatment area, but the waiting area was enough for today.