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The Reluctant Complainer

In my mind, I like to think that I am not a complainer. I imagine that I am a picture of English manners and/or passivity. I worry that when it comes to my hospital, I am not seen through my own rose tinted glasses. Sure, on the rare occasion, I may have been vocal about the delays in Daycare, but only on one occasion was I shamefully rude about said delay and I did apologise for my reaction a few days later. Telling people how much they bruised you after they have put a cannula in, isn’t exactly complaining is it? By the same token, telling a few people that a Senior Medically Trained Person has poor people skills, is merely an observation.

I am worried that I am perceived to be a complainer, because whenever my life is interrupted by delays on the 2s now, at least three people apologise to me and more often than not, one of those people is the Medically Trained Person in the fancy Blue and Red outfit. It is of course polite for them to apologise, but there were no apologies to that extent when I was on PADIMAC and my treatment could take four or five hours. And so, I fear I have an unfounded reputation for speaking my mind.

Okay, I did write three letters of complaint to my GP when I was diagnosed, but that was to my GP. I am not one to complain to the lovely people who have taken care of me and continue to take care of me so well over on Huntley Street.

I mean, there was the time I demanded to see the head nurse regarding the quality of the nursing care at the National Hospital of Neurology and Neurosurgery, but that complaint was warranted, because the care they could be bothered to provide really was dire. I followed up my concerns in the ‘other comments’ section of the UCLH survey to boot. Twice.

I really do not complaint. I try to remember the manners passed down from Mamma Jones and, let us face it, I’m very passive.

I suppose my comments to multiple Medically Trained People when I was admitted to hospital during my transplant, could be interpreted as complaints. I was pooing a river and hallucinating green giant lemmings attempting to escape from my stomach by drilling holes with wooden spoons at the time.

The care I receive truly is tremendous. Everybody is super duper nice to me. I like to think this is because I am nice and not because people have secretly badged me as the opinionated fat one with myeloma.

So, as you can see, I really do not complain. I am ever thankful for the care I receive in that wonderful building on Huntley Street. It pains me to think that others would assume anything else when it comes to my being.

That said, a month ago there was an actually an incident that did require complaint. I actually complained. To this day, I feel most guilty about it and I have not stepped foot in the section where the incident occurred since. In short, My Second Favourite Blood Taking Person, whose demeanour is usually so calm and collected, shouted and swore at me whilst directing a needle at my arm. There is more to my tale, but all I will say is that it was unprovoked. I have a witness.

I was not going to complain, not because I am not a complainer, but because I feared it would make me feel uncomfortable when I make my fortnightly journeys downstairs to the Lower Ground floor. I am inherently selfish, so I did not consider the impact had he shouted at somebody else and not me, who as you all know, is as hard as nails. I eventually realised that I already felt extremely uncomfortable about visiting the Blood Test Room because of the incident itself, and when I realised that, I wanted to tell somebody simply because it should not have happened and I should not feel this way about having to have my blood taken. It definitely should not have happened in a cancer centre. The centre is not the place to feel awkward. Just ask their decorator.

I went to a magical window called PAPs in the hospital’ Tower, where I was told that because of what I was alleging, it had to be a formal complaint. And here in lies my guilt. I feel guilty for having to complain and now I am afraid to show my face, not because I fear everybody in the Blood Test Room are now going to be intent on bruising me as much as they can, which I do, but because I am embarrassed. I am very embarrassed about it all.

I am told that I will receive an apology when I next go in, that creates more embarrassment. The thought of it makes me want to convulse in an overdramatic and unnecessary way. I do not want an apology, I want it to have never happened. My Favourite Receptionist has offered to come down with me, which is nice. Clearly, I do not know if this would make me feel more awkward.

Tomorrow, I am going to go and have my bloods done and I will have to keep reminding myself that I did not want to complain. I am not a complainer. I am a reluctant complainer who occasionally does not think before she speaks. Maybe I’ll get that on a t-shirt.

EJB x

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Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Sometime ago, I got the number 30 bus from Hackney Town Hall to the stop nearest to my flat, and as I stepped onto the curb on the road they call Ball, I remember how elated I felt, because finally, after months of Mamma Jones driving me places, taxis and the Patient Transport Service, I had regained some of the independence I lost with myeloma. Many months have passed, over a year’s worth in fact, since that happy time, and I can now without any hesitation that I no longer feel that way when indecently travel. The novelty has well and truly warn off. The adrenaline I felt that day has long been superseded by apprehension. Apprehensive and loathing to be precise.

Now, with the PTS a distant memory, any travel I undertake no longer feels a matter of routine as it should. Travel is an effort. It is an effort for a number of reasons, not least because I have become a lazy bum who loathes strangers, particularly the sort of stranger who does not know what a ‘Priority Seat’ means. It is a bummer, especially now I am getting out and about and attempting to enjoy #londonlife.

I fear the unknown with travel. I fear what will happen if I get tired whilst I am doing it, I fear people bashing me and not letting me sit down, I fear that I cannot always be independent when I am doing it, I fear that my face will not be able to disguise how uncomfortable some seats are for me, I fear falling over and I fear what will happen if my mode of public transport breaking down. These fears go through my head every time I travel and thus it is the reason why my current, preferred and used mode of transport is a black cab. Trust me, taxis are an expensive way to travel, but it saves my precious energy from worrying about being forced into delivering my much mentally rehearsed, vitriolic speech to people who fail to surrender the priority seat when it is needed. The speech by the way is awesome, designed to make the recipient go home and flush their head down their toilet with their mouth open. Sometimes, I admit, it can go too far and include a certain word that is not ladylike and I am working on that. Ignorant norfolkers.

I have had the time to dwell over my ability to travel and I have come up with certain rules to reduce my fear and manage my hatred of humankind and they are as follows:

🚌 Do not travel during rush hour
🚌 Do not leave the flat without my stick
🚌 Do not get on a bus with any form of luggage
🚌 Never go to the top deck of a bus, because you cannot, and on the rare occasions you have done it, you have paid for it instantly and then well into the following day
🚌 Never stand when a vehicle is in motion
🚌 Prior to travel, if concentration is proving impossible and the bagS below the eye have turned a deeper shade of purple, throw money at the problem
🚌 Avoid the aisle seat, as turning corners can really be treacherous when you are sitting next to somebody equally as large as you are
🚌 Always be polite to those under the employment of the travel company, always, and if this includes saying ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ to the bus driver then so be it, it could lead to a free upgrade
🚌 If disaster strikes, ring somebody and talk incredibly loudly about the fact you have myeloma which is a cancer with no cure

Some of these rules are easier to follow than others, and it is on the bus where I find myself becoming a rebel. Not a rebel as such, because in no way, is it enjoyable.

In my mind, buses are the most dangerous and troublesome form of transport and nothing TFL can tell me will convince me otherwise. Buses are dangerous for many reasons, they were dangerous before I knew they were dangerous. If I knew what I know now, in early August 2012, I would never have stood up on a bus as it was breaking and thus I would not have ended up clutching a lamppost on Shaftesbury Avenue crying and too shy to ask the policeman walking past me to call an ambulance. Now, being the know it all I have become, I resist the temptation to stand up whilst a bus is in motion as noted above. Bus drivers, unfortunately, are not privy to my rules, and they frequently drive their big red vehicles before I am safely in my seat. I find this most inconsiderate. At least I have now worked up the courage to tell the person next to me that I will not stand up to let them out until the bus has come to a complete stop; it is always met with confusion. I do not get on with luggage at all because I am not agile and any lifting has to be saved for the train, in the event that I can find nobody to assist me or if the train is busy. That is also a consideration I have and one I faces and flailed today.

My main issue however is with the public. On the buses (and they could be getting a bad reputation because I use them the most), on the train and on the tube… My impression, which of course is skewed, is that people ignore those with a disability, unless you have a visibility disability or a blue rinse. I was once asked to get out of my non-priority seat by a man in front of me in a priority seat to allow an older lady sans stick to sit. I said no. On another occasion, I walked into a bus outside UCLH with a bald head and a large bag saying pharmacy, and asked for a seat and nobody got up. I asked again and nobody got up. More generally I am encountered by competing eyes looking at other like minded seated people, wishing that they win in the competition of whose manners kick in last. It is a headache and one that I fret over again and again. Two years ago, I wager I was one of them. Actually, I was not because I was a top deck sort of gal.

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Sod that, give me a badge

I said once that my life is full of new challenges now, and this my friends is one of the greatest practical ones I have facing me, and it is one that I should face everyday but sometimes, the worry and effort get the the better of me. Home is safe. Taxis are comfortable.

There is one mode of transport of which I would not complain about (apart from pain from sitting and sitting leg room) and for that, I wait with breath that is baited. Seriously though, can somebody please just put me on a plane.

✈️

EJB x

P.S. Some may call this attention seeking. I call it preservation.

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Englishness

Today I found myself on the tube or to go by its official name, the London Underground. I have never been a fan of the tube, it’s the sweat aspect of it really, people’s sweat in my face and my sweat on my pits. Anyway, I was on the tube because I was running late and even though I do not like it, and there are more changes, which does me no good at all, it is faster than the bus. Practical.

So there I was on the Victoria Line, with my walking stick. I walked through the sliding doors into the carriage, rattling my stick, to find all the seats taken. People looked up and me, but nobody was budging. Bastards. This threw me into a dilemma. The only reason I travel with the bloody stick is to avoid situations where I have to ask somebody for a seat. In terms of my manners with strangers, at times when I do not have steroids pumping through my veins, I am the most English of English people. I say sorry to people when they bash into me, I like to queue if there are seats, and as it turns out, I do not ask people if I can have a seat on the tube because I do not want to appear rude.

Ordinarily, I think I could have managed the 15 minute journey standing, but somebody on my train was taken ill, which added a further 20 minutes to the journey. People tutted. I rattled my walking stick some more and sighed. People did nothing. Instead, I had a couple who both needed to wash their hair, shove their instruments in my face.

I then had a hot flush, one really needs to sit during one of those bad boys, if only so there is something else there to absorb the sweat from my butt. And still, my fellow commuters, travelling outside of rush hour, were oblivious to my plight. Perhaps they were all afflicted with an invisible disability like me and were brave enough to face the world without a visible symbol of weakness, but the odds of that are pretty slim, like getting myeloma. I will take a gamble however and say that the majority did not have an invisible disability. The longer I stood, the more I could feel my back, invisibly poking me. Perhaps I need a badge, like the ‘Baby on Board’ badges that says, ‘Cancer. Weak Bones. Take Pity’. I did contemplate theatrically removing my hat, because I thought that my head plus walking stick would definitely result in somebody giving me there seat, but I vetoed that, because it would have meant that I had to carry my hat as well as my coat, stick and handbag. The longer I stood, the more I believed that everybody in my carriage was evil, and I mean urinate on puppies and kittens type of evil. By Oxford Circus, I was convinced that there were so evil, that they might actually defecate on those puppies and kittens too. Bastards.

All of that venom and anguish because I was too polite to ask for a seat. I say polite, you may say something else.

I’ll have to learn…

My name is Emma Jane Jones and I have a disability.

Fortunately my faith in humankind was almost restored on the District Line when a Mr Darcy-esque male with manners, offered me his seat without prompting when I changed tubes. I felt a bit sorry for him, not because he was wearing a pointy loafer, but because I was only on that train for a stop. But my, did that seat feel good. I sighed with pleasure. Trust me, that’s not a pleasant sound for anybody. I then felt sorry for everybody on the carriage. Well, the people not listening to their iPods.

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