is a ‘how I suffered’ type of book. So why am I singing its praises?
Author Mitzi Blennerhassett recounts her problems as a cancer patient in a matter-of-fact way. We can all relate to her experiences, and think, “she had this as well – so why am I being told no-one else does?”
But when she was told this, she went on to do something about changing the NHS and medical culture; much to our benefit.
This should give us courage to face up to uncaring oncologists and nurses with too much to do, and no time to think if what they are saying is insensitive. Or to care about our pain. We all have days when we have to grit our teeth to bite back an angry retort, because a medical professional has not thought what they are telling us is going to impact on our lives – and the consequences.
I would love to give this book to the nurse who told a fellow patient “you are ONLY a patient here” when she had, as an eminent scientist, questioned her treatment. The patient turned out to be right, and it is time the medical profession in the UK realised that if we have cancer we HAVE to become clued up with medical knowledge, otherwise we get into trouble. I wish I had realised this years ago, and given the anaesthetist who assisted at my lumpectomy a lecture about what polio patients need, before suffering two months of ill-health she caused, after what should have been a simple operation
My next operation saw a much bolder patient emerge, and full marks to Mario Petrou, the brilliant surgeon at the Royal Brompton. He listened to my concerns, and together with his anaesthetist, Dr. Hunter, devised a plan for my seven-hour operation. Result – NO problems and I felt ‘almost’ on top of the world afterwards. So this book might encourage more of us to question and comment – to our advantage.
Mitzi comments on the fatuous statement “how are you feeling today”. Next time I shall be honest and say “b – awful, otherwise I wouldn’t be here to see you.” And if anyone dares to ask me again, when I have told them I am in pain, “on a scale of 1 – 10, how do you feel?” the reply will be shouted LOOK AT MY NOTES. I have had polio. It is known to be one of the most painful diseases on the planet. If a polio patient says they are in pain, believe me, WE ARE.
So in a funny way this book will cheer you up. Mitzi comments on the appalling lack of hygiene and privacy in so many hospitals, how some doctors give information in a factual and sensible way – others fudge the issue so that the patient ends up delaying treatment because they think it isn’t urgent. As Prof. Karol Sikora says in his foreword, “This is the story of just one person but it is repeated time and time again by many”. Well, if Mitzi’s book gives you courage to point out what is wrong and do something to improve matters for yourself, it will have done a good job.
She also comments on the appalling lack of knowledge and care in handling side effects from the drugs she was prescribed. Next time you are told “I’ve never seen this side effect before”, DON’T take the eminent specialist’s word – if it has happened to you, you have the problem, and specialists are there to sort these out. That’s what they are paid for. By you, with your taxes and/or privately.
So read her book; realise you are not alone, and go out and do something about it – for your sanity and those patients who come after you.
Published by Radcliffe ISBN 13: 978: 184619 010 £14.99 http://www.radcliffe-oxford.com