Prescription for Disaster

Friday, 6 June 2014

Well THAT couldn't have been more awkward

Just in case you’ve not yet heard, I’ve written a book (Prescription for Disaster). Well, you may have heard as I’ve kind of been shouting it from the rooftops with a megaphone. I don’t plan to stop any time soon.

My day was more or less one of those where you start to suspect that the universe is setting you up. It started in the morning on my way to the hospital – a small little old lady full on reached out and cupped my bum cheek in an elevator, then looked me in the eye, grinned and apologized. Having given her the side-eye there wasn’t much more I could do so off I went, continuing on with my journey. I then passed a local charity shop with an actual pirate hooker costume in the window - just like in my book. This was weird.

About half way to the hospital while passing a small park I hear ‘Timber! Look out! Timberrrrr!) and the sound of a chainsaw up in the air. I looked up just in time to see a gigantic tree limb (it wasn’t a branch, it was a full on limb) crashing to the ground and onto the hedge I was walking past. The last thing one expects to encounter in central London is a full on lumberjack.

I made it to the hospital, slightly hesitant about entering for my treatment given the absurdity the day had already started spewing at me. Regardless, I went in, staked out my chemo chair for the day and settled in – quickly heading down to the consultant’s clinic to see Dr. Sarc and his team. What happened there has given me so much pride. I’m quite close to bursting with pride already at this point – like a peacock proudly showing off his feathers of awesomeness that then hits the vanity boiling point in which it suddenly molts and explodes – beautiful feathers strewn about the street as shrapnel of the peacock having thought far too much of himself.

I saw one of my regular doctors, the young rheumatologist with an iPhone. I told him about my book, showing him the copy I had brought with me. I cannot begin to describe the smile on his face when I told him how much he had influenced my experience and that he was in there as well. He asked me where he could get a copy and I assured him that I would post him one to the hospital in the next few weeks, that I would be so pleased to give him one – and that the best thanks I could ever give him was to tell the world what he had done. It was a lovely exchange, and then he wrote me up for some more drugs.

So although it wasn’t a surprise so much as just more weirdness gravitating toward me, that same doctor came up to the day ward I was on after his clinic finished. He wanted to ask me to please sign the book I send him, to his name and with my name. See, he’s having an assessment in a month and wants to bring this to his supervisor to show them that he’s so fantastic that one of his patients even wrote a book about him.

So of course I will personalize it. And I shall sign that one with the greatest flourish I can muster.

So after something like that I was understandably on a bit of a roll confidence wise. It was rather short lived.

My employer’s photography crew showed up at the hospital a few minutes later, ready to take some promotional shots for my book – which the surprised nurse kindly let us use an empty treatment room for. The nursing staff seemed to be so surprised by my sudden spoken Chinese and the small crew of Chinese people having shown up that we more or less got to do what we wanted – though I of course was careful not to have any people or hospital identifying information in the shots. Our awkward photo shoot done they left – back to the office and wishing me luck with whatever the hell I was doing there (erm….. I maybe should have explained things to them first. I assured them that I wasn’t dying and would definitely see them at work on Monday)

and I went back to settle into my chair, chatting with a good friend that had shown up coincidentally (the best kind of showing up, really). Again, my confidence level was preeeeetttty high… so I was going to do it. I was going to make an approach with my book to the hospital gift shop.

And that could NOT have gone any worse.

My plan is to form partnerships with the “Friends of ___” volunteer run shops of hospitals throughout the NHS in the hopes that they will not only stock but include my book on their little cart that goes around to all the wards. This would be ideal for me, as it’s a book designed for sick people and well…. hospitals are full of ‘em. So I made an approach, to a friendly old man running the WH Smith bookshop downstairs. He told me that there used to be a “Friends of Royal Free” shop but it sadly closed about four years ago – he used to be a volunteer there himself. Now it’s just the WH Smith, but the trolley that goes round is run by the Volunteers Office now – maybe I should talk to them.

Great! He directed me to the office and off I went – uber confident that an office of elderly volunteers should be quite pleasant and relaxed to deal with.

It was not.

The volunteers office of the Royal Free Hospital is run by an intimidatingly efficient yet very pleasant woman, and is an office of about 10 or so people… not really what I had anticipated. The receptionist is an elderly woman with terrible hearing, so kept asking me why I was there. I really need to practice how I explain these this to people – as I stammered and stuttered and told her that I ‘wanted to get involved with promoting the hospital and fundraising, I’ve written a book and would like to speak to someone about how I can get involved.”


“Oh. I’ve written a book –“

“WHAT? This isn’t the library!”

“I don’t want the library. I’ve written a book –“

“Oh no dear, we don’t sell books here.” 

"No, I've WRITTEN a book! WRITTEN!"

"Oh! Good for you dear!"

She was interrupted (thank God) by the uber-efficient woman running the volunteer office, who gave me forms to fill in while she told me about the 57 volunteer positions currently open. I told her I wasn't interested in volunteering my time so much, but that I was looking more into getting involved in fundraising and promoting the hospital, spreading a message of positivity in chronic illness.

"Oh, so you want to do fundraising, that's great! We are always in need of more collection tin volunteers!"

"What? No, you misunderstand. I don't want to hold a tin"

"Oh, well, we have table positions for collections as well."

"No, I work full time. I'm not going to walk around with a collection tin."

"Oh, well you could take it to the station closest to your work? Where do you live?"

"I'm not here to do a collection tin."

"You could do a collection tin here at the hospital?"

"Enough with the tin! I'm not here for a collection tin!"

I decided to try a different tactic. 

"Okay. Here is the form, I've finished filling it in. Is there a contact person that I could talk to about getting involved from a 'higher level' fundraising or promotion opportunity?"

"So you don't want to do a collection tin?"

In the end I left my email for her boss, spun my IV pole around and got the hell out of there, back up to the ward and to relax. That was the most awkward and frustrating attempt at 'getting involved' I've ever experienced .Drained from the day and sure that the weirdness of my day was at least over I sent Paul a text asking him and the kids to come up to the ward to get me when they arrived. This is what I got back:

Alas, the weirdness of my days is never, EVER over.

Oooh! But I did get to have those satay noodles for lunch!


  1. Can I just say that I'm so glad you include those pictures. I am cracking up. Hope you're feeling better.

    1. LOL, you wouldn't BELIEVE the pictures I've found but am waiting for a story to occur where I can use them!

  2. Read your blog backwards, so glad to hear you discovered the great cafeteria at the Royal Free. Can't believe those table people were so uninviting, though. Is that a London thing? Next time, don't ask, just sit. You've as much right to eat your lunch there as anyone else.
    – WanderingLight from Inspire

    1. I know, right?!?! Maybe it's a Canadian thing...

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