I just came back from seeing the tissue viability consultant (confusing title - nice lady) and had a phone call. It was my oncoplastic surgeon, Mr A. After three months, I'm still having a few complications related to my mastectomy and reconstruction. Past highlights include a blood transfusion (five pints worth, thank you blood donors) and a necrotic breast (from which a giant gobstopper of dead tissue had to be removed and muscle/skin regrown). Now I have a hole in my back that refuses to heal. Mr A was sitting in a cafe in Harrods, treating himself during some rare time off, but he wanted to know how my meeting with the tissue consultant went.
Can we really be talking about the NHS? Over the last three months, every time I have had a worry or a question, I've been able to text Mr A directly. And he always, always texts me back, sometimes immediately. I imagine him about to go into theatre with the team, his phone beeping with my text and him saying "ooh, hold on a sec, it's Kelly, won't be a mo!" Well. Of course that doesn't happen. But the thought of being important to my surgeon, who makes all the big decisions about my care, is a really comforting one. And I know that all of the surgeons at the Mermaid care deeply about their patients, and vice-versa. "They're gods, aren't they?" said M, a lovely ward housekeeper, when I was in hospital. All of the ladies agreed between mouthfuls of lukewarm shepherd's pie. M went on to regale us with a story about a woman who'd had the name of both her surgeon and oncologist tattooed at the base of her spine. We cooed in admiration and wonder.
So, despite sitting in Harrods eating mango cheesecake (and definitely not shepherd's pie), Mr A rang me, like any friend would, to ask me how I was doing. It's heartwarming. I feel I must honour and celebrate you, Mr A, but to make sure you don't get a big head, here is my final homage: a card I received from my friend Rach while I was recovering from surgery. She drew arrows pointing to our husbands, but there is also one (second from left) that says "this is your surgeon". I laughed until my new breast hurt.