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When the body protests, the soul hardens; My cancer journey (Part 2)

When I picked the phone I was so excited to tell my mother that I had slept for four hours straight. She was thrilled for me, knowing that insomnia and pain had taken over my life for the past few months. Though a nurse by profession herself, she had failed to convince me to continuously visit doctors, I was stubborn, I hated needles and I have a phobia for medical facilities too.

That morning she knew that the effect of ‘nails’ had finally been felt. There is a story told about a dog that accidentally sat on sharp nails. It whimpered time and again but never got up. When a neighbour saw the dog, he asked the owner of the dog why he was not assisting the dog; the owner then said that the dog was still to feel the pain of the nails and would only get up when the pain had become unbearable enough. That morning I equated myself to that dog. For months I had been in pain but somehow I was on my feet, I could go to work, and was dependent on painkillers. Until they stopped working – the nails had finally dug in and it was time to act.

As the effect of the painkillers from the night started wearing off, I quickly got myself ready to go and see the specialist as advised by the general practitioner. The address on the envelope led me to a block of office flats in the cbd, but I failed to locate his office. When I asked for assistance I was told that he had moved to Milton Park, a five-minute drive away.

Again, the pain had returned and it took me forever to settle in my car and drive to the office in Milton Park. I resisted the urge to take any painkillers because I had been told to discontinue. As I drove into the specialist’s office yard, I could not help but marvel at the immaculate landscape and well-manicured lawn. Everything was spotless and looked very well maintained.

I walked into the reception area, dreading the usual smell of hospitals, but to my relief I felt like I had just walked into a restaurant. I was ushered into the doctor’s office and when I handed him the brown envelope he asked a few questions and jotted down some notes. It was at the examination bed that he asked when I’d had my last meal. I had last eaten food the previous evening, and the only other thing I’d had was painkillers through the night. He said he had to do surgery urgently!

The thought of surgery made me panic but at that time I knew I had to listen to the doctor’s instructions – anything that would relieve me of pain was welcome. His assistants then made swift arrangements to get me to a hospital. As they made inquiries over the phone, I overheard that one hospital was full, the second option had no equipment and adequate staff, and finally, the third option was willing to take me in.

Seeing the pain I was in, the nurses asked if they should call an ambulance to get me to the hospital. Having paid cash, in USD, for consultation, because I was still fulfilling the waiting period on my medical aid, I knew that an ambulance service would be too heavy on my pocket. So I opted to drive to the hospital.

Two hours after admission, my doctor arrived together with an anesthetist. I was wheeled to the theatre and I could not wait for the anesthesia to be injected into me. I needed to be unconscious for a while, just to escape my discomfort. I watched the anesthetist carefully injecting my arm and a moment later I was gone to the world.

When I woke up I saw my mother sitting next to me, I tried to get up but my body would not let me. I tried to strike up a conversation but my voice was groggy. I was fully conscious of my environment but I was too heavily drugged to function properly. Most importantly I felt no pain, and I smiled as I drifted off to sleep, grateful for a successful procedure.

The next seven days in the hospital were not as bad as I had anticipated. My doctor visited me daily to check on me, the nurses were always a call away, I received so many visitors and the food was great. I only dreaded the sitz baths that I had to take twice daily. Salt on an open wound can never be downplayed. However, this was a path to recovery, and knowing that piles had been removed and that the days of self-medicating were over, I was keen to be discharged.

Saying goodbye to my new friends at the hospital was bittersweet. We had created a good rapport and the nurses’ professionalism made my hospital stay bearable. As my father drove me home, I prayed that I would not be back in hospital again for a long time to come.

Another week went by as I recuperated at home. Although I was on prescribed pain medication and antibiotics, I was excited that all was well. That was until my doctor called me asking me to visit his office to discuss some lab results with him. Instinctively I knew that something was wrong…

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