I’m trying to break into the pathology lab to get a slice of my tumour to send to China. Quite a lot has happened since my last blog.
First things first I’m not a match for the work they are doing at the National Institute for Cancer in the US. However this does not deter me. I’m a big advocate of the try-try-try again philosophy. Celine Ryan, hero of my last blog was knocked back twice by the NIC before she was finally taken on and “cured” of her cancer.
More importantly I have several other avenues that I’m exploring and this is keeping my hope buoyed up. Treatment in China is one of my options and the team I am in touch with want a sample of my tumour to see whether I may be suitable for their work.
So this is what brings me to where I am now. Outside the biggest pathology laboratory in Scotland. Housed within a five storey flagship building at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, seven hundred staff work here to service over one million people in Glasgow and beyond.
And somewhere in the bowels of this building is the former resident of my bowels; one particularly nasty 4cm adenocarcinoma.
My mission here today is to get a slice of it. Unfortunately there is a good chance that I wont make it further than the reception desk. I had to make a quick decision when I walked into the building. Do I walk in like I own the place and saunter right on into the pathology lab? Or do I check into reception and appeal for help…?
You may wonder why I on earth I have just turned up unannounced like some weirdo crazy person. I am wondering that myself. I have asked my doctors to find out for me how I can send a slice of my tumour to China but no one has responded yet. Which is why I’m here at the pathology lab today. I don’t have time to wait for things to be done through the conventional channels. I’m getting frustrated always waiting for answers so I’ve decided to find out for myself.
The problem is pathologists don’t interact with patients. They generally only speak to doctors. In fact I did manage to speak to a pathologist last year just after I got the pathology report on my tumour. He said he hadn’t spoken to a patient for 5 years.
So I really don’t know if I’m going to get past the reception. Turns out you can’t just swagger into this place unless you have a pass so I have no option other than to present myself at the front desk.
The receptionist is a hard nut. A passer by has just come in to report what looks like a large blood spillage all over the pavement right outside the building. Nonplussed she tells them thats not my problem you’ll have to take it up with facilities.
You don’t have to be Inspector Morse to figure out the blood was heading to or from this building. This is the building where all the pathology in Glasgow and surrounding areas is carried out. Anything from blood specimens to tumours to entire corpses come here to get processed.
I wonder what has happened to cause the blood bath outside and whether this is a normal happening outside this building. Especially in icy weather…
“I’m wanting to get some of my tumour to send to China – who can I speak to about this?” this is my opening gambit to the stony faced receptionist. She looks at me like I’m a total weirdo. I feel myself shrinking up and have to push through to pretend this is a perfectly normal request. I’m ordering a coffee in starbucks.
She refers me up and I hear her on the phone to the department’s secretary. They are incredulous that I don’t have an appointment. I do have some names though. I bring out a list of all the pathologists who have handled various samples of my body over the last 17 months. It’s odd that there are people out there whom I’ve never met but who have had intimate acquaintance with a piece of my flesh. There are eight of them but three specifically for colon cancer only none are available. One is in a meeting so I’m going to hang about and hope he becomes free soon as I need to do the school pick up.
I’m feeling a bit self-conscious as I sit here in the lobby of this modern lofty building. I realise I look especially eccentric today in my pink wooly jumper and comfy jogging bottoms with loud mismatching polka dot socks. Then there is my massive fluorescent yellow cycling helmet that always makes me look distinctly remedial.
As the somberly dressed scientists and uniformed personnel trickle in and out of the building I am beginning to think maybe it would be a better idea to go home and come back again tomorrow dressed like a professional.
I am actually a bit relieved to run out of time. I tell the receptionist I’ll be back tomorrow and am leaving through the revolving doors when someone runs after me to call me back in. The pathologist is ready to see me now! And it turns out that it’s the nice man who I spoke to on the phone about a year ago now. I’m really delighted to meet him in the flesh! He is very softly spoken and apologises for wearing his running gear. I feel much more at ease now in my jogging bottoms.
He spends a good half an hour with me chatting through how I can do this. Ultimately it is my flesh and I’ll be able to get a piece of it. But it is so rare for a patient to request a sample of their tumour that although there is a protocol for it, not even his boss can remember what it is. So of course I’m not going to be able to walk out of here today with a chunk of tumour. I did think that would be unlikely. It’s going to take a few weeks to process but at least I’ve kickstarted things.
As I leave the building I do a ghoulish detour to try and locate the blood spillage. I’m a little disappointed not to find anything until I notice a splash of red at the edge of a large puddle of freshly washed pavement. Ah ha. That’s where it was. I idly muse on the circumstances that could have caused the spillage and wonder whose blood it is and why they are getting tested. This unlucky person or persons are eventually going to be told their blood went “missing” and be recalled for another test. Shit. I suddenly remember that I had a blood test done this morning. Wouldn’t that be weird if it was my blood on the ground. The adventures that substances formerly forming parts of our bodies have … I reckon that would make a nice children’s storybook. For kids like mine anyway