Tuesday, 3 April 2012
Have we lost our concept of convalescing?
It's 30 years since the Falklands war as many commentators are highlighting just now. I was one of those people who said war could never happen over a set of islands most British people had never heard of..that we wouldn't risk lives in such circumstance. I know better now and I realise that political ambition in whatever it's hue can lead to such , in my view, flawed decisions. But why is it relevant to me in particular? It has brought back memories of an earlier hospital admission. I was pregnant with my son and had my appendix removed. A stressful time largely because we feared I would lose him. Happily I didn't but it meant the surgery was more complex and I was sent to a convalescent hospital.......a concept no longer in existence. Picture a scene from Call the Midwife and you will have taste of it. ...and i am not that old honest .It was a long ward of about 30 people ( a Nightingale ward as it was named after Florence!). Many of the patients were about 40 years older than me and wiser too. They sat around the TV as war was threatened and recognised and feared for the signs. I was told I was there to rest and eat well to aid my recovery. Well let me home then I cried! The image of the last nights dinner looming large....two poached eggs and some mashed potato....the memory still makes me heave. And as for the snoring, lets not even go there. So they did let me home with a promise to rest. But I wonder if we have lost the concept of convalescence along the way. Not in hospital of course , but in life. The importance of self care, healthy food, gentle exercise and TLC. Instead we pledge to run marathons, rush back to work, prove to ourselves and others that it's had no impact. But it has. I guess my learning at this late stage is to embrace that and recognise that this new you in whatever way, is not worse it's just different. And I have of course committed to giving myself good recovery time and have even linked in to some support to make sure I do that....I know my own risks you see! One woman I met in hospital was in the middle of chemotherapy and will have stem cell treatment too in the spring, her work said oh I was expecting you might be back in the summer. WHAT? ! Have they any concept of what she has been through? Clearly not. So it's just as important that benefit systems and work environments understand the impact of a serous illness like cancer and don't force people back in a way that will endanger their long term health too. And let's not forget hospitals can start a person on a journey to better self care so hospital food needs to enable that. I know that the poached egg story is old now but when I asked for fruit this morning for breakfast I was only offered prunes ( don't ask!). Holistic care and messages need to be joined up, good nutrition should be part of that. Reasons to be cheerful are plentiful. I have had my surgery and am home, already feeling the benefits of my new self. I was nervous but I am so glad i did it. The team in Edinburgh are simply fantastic. They provide up to the minute care and treatment within an ethos of kindness and support. I am so grateful to them. Breakthrough Breast Cancers service pledge has the potential to influence all breast cancer services in the UK to provide such care and we shouldn't rest till we do. So a big THANK YOU to Professor Mike Dixon and the team at the Western General Hospital Ward 6. You are awesome!