You know you sometimes can’t see how far you’ve come? It all feels a bit blurry, but you know things have improved. It’s just hard to really take it all in. Today I got a big reminder of how far I’ve come.
I had an x ray this morning, and after an hour of laying down, on my back, then my side, then my front and having to drink chalk mixed with aniseed (barium meal). I thought what’s another half an hour? So I went up to the ward where I spent most of June and July last year.
I was looking for J. A nurse who had kept me sane through it all. She’s tiny and cheerful and always tried her hardest to keep me happy. She was one of the few that saw past me as a patient and looked for my personality, which at that time had shrunk. I was just existing at that point.
She’d ask me about boys, and if I had a boyfriend. She asked me about make up and my nails. She always asked about my visitor’s – she wanted to know it all. At first I didn’t like it, I thought she was just a busy body but gradually I noticed she cared. She wanted to know. She teased me too. At times I was horrible. I couldn’t get out of bed and I didn’t want to be there. Even though I wasn’t a rude or aggressive patient, I was at times sulky and quiet. J somehow let herself in though, and she was one of the few that I cried to. I’d wail at her. I’d tell her how I hated being there and how I was sick of being sick. I was sick of it all. She never got angry or told me to pull myself together. Instead she held my hand, and she told me to let it all out. So I did.
There was the one afternoon where I’d somehow managed a few hours without my mum or dad there. I don’t know how, but it was rare to be alone in the day. So J took this opportunity to spoil me. She crept into my room, put the nurse present light on, and told me I’d be having a wash. Something I was really against at this point. Not because I’m unhygienic but because it hurt to move and I was scared to move.
She patiently got me out of bed, and into the bathroom. She was a whirlwind at times, rushing around the room, ripping the sheets off and putting fresh sheets on the bed. All whilst I was trying to untangle myself from my drips and drains. Once she was sorted, she joined me in the bathroom. She sorted out my wires and got me out of my night dress and slowly washed me. Such a simple task but to me it was quite unusual. No one washes me. I can do it myself and I like my personal space. But at that moment it was what I needed and the act of such kindness and it being quite intimate really shocked me.
Once I was all refreshed and fully moisturised – J loved going through my wash bag and finding my moisturisers. I hobbled back into bed. I felt like I’d done a marathon, so got back into bed where I thought I’d be left to snooze. J had another idea though.
“Han, you’re 28 yes?”
“Do you want me to shave your legs for you and help you feel a bit more normal?”
“Ummm, are you sure? Aren’t you busy? You don’t have to”
She told me she’d be five minutes and it didn’t matter as she was on her break. She sat me in the bed, laid out towels everywhere and started shaving my legs. I don’t think anyone has ever shaved my legs apart from me. She then went on to do under my arms. Afterwards I felt almost human again, and felt a bit more feminine. I would no longer have to apologise to all about my hairy legs.
She left me eventually, with me looking at my make up and going through my stuff looking for my tweezers. I’d not plucked my eyebrows in months. Suddenly I had something to do with all that time in bed and I wanted to feel like me again.
It was such a simple thing to do, but it made such a difference to me. It lifted me up when I felt so rotten. I never got to really thank her as on the day I was discharged she wasn’t working.
So this morning, I went and found her. She was helping a patient, but I knew it was her straight away. So I waited quietly, and then she appeared. She smiled at first, a polite smile, as if she wasn’t sure if I was visiting or wanting to speak to her. She then looked at me with a frown.
“Oh my god, Hannah! Look at you! You look like a Royal (I still don’t know what she meant by that!)”
She hugged me. She came up to my waist and she squeezed me. She cried too. Happy tears. She told me she’d never really seen me smile until today. Threw me slightly until I thought about it properly. Even though I was friendly to the staff and said please and thank you after every new cannular/medication/op/drama ,I never really smiled. If I did, it was just a polite one.
But today, she got a proper smile. She loved it.
I thanked her for everything and told her I’d never forget what she’d done for me. She asked if I was all clear and I was able to say yes. We had another few hugs and she studied my face and hair. All new to her as when she saw me my skin was beginning to look see through and I had no hair.
Her reaction alone, has told me how far I’ve come.
I also told her she could consider a move over to Oncology – she told me many times she wanted to go to Oncology. I think she’d be brilliant. She saw me, not the patient, and that’s what we all want sometimes.
I left eventually, and told her ever so nicely
“I hope I don’t ever have to see you again”
She giggled and said “Everyone says that to me”