When I last left you, our heroine in this story (me) had just been told she needed to go to hospital to have a stupidly, self-inflicted infection treated immediately. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, get to hospital now.
So there I was in my surgical oncologist’s office on Sydney’s north shore, calling work to let them know I wouldn’t be in the office tomorrow, but would do my best to work from the hospital, and that I may not be back in on Monday either. I had to call the boarding kennel to see if I could get a place for the dogs for a few days. It was the weekend before the Australia Day public holiday so places were limited.
I drove back home over the Harbour Bridge to my inner west home, packed a bag, and made some calls to family and friends to let them know what was going on. I put the dogs in the car and took them to the kennel at the airport where they were able to stay for one night before being transferred to their larger boarding facility a little further south of the city.
One of my friends was insistent that she wanted to drive me to the hospital (back over on the north shore) though I was quite happy just to get a taxi over there. At the same time, I was trying to be more open to people wanting to help because I knew I would need help from friends in the future and if I kept refusing help now, the offers of help might dry up when I actually needed them.
The hospital was expecting me to arrive by about 8pm that night so my friend picked me up from my house at 7pm to drive across to the north shore. Her eight-year-old daughter was in the back seat of the car and we took off on a new adventure on a balmy Sydney summer’s night, no idea of what just lay ahead of us.
As we approached the entry to the Sydney Harbour Bridge, it began to rain and the windscreen wipers on my friend’s car began to get slower and slower as the rain became heavier and heavier. By the time we were on the bridge, the heavens had opened up with a massive summer storm and the windscreen wipers came to a complete halt. I could barely see three feet in front of us from the passenger seat and I had no idea where the lane markings were. We were driving blind. Eventually, my friend was able to find an emergency lane where we could pull over, which was also undercover so we could almost see outside again. She called roadside assistance for help and after finally getting through (strangely, roadside assistance always gets real busy when there’s a storm or it rains), she was told that roadside assistance would not come to our aid because it was too dangerous for them to pull in behind us where we were seeking refuge. We were told we would need to take the next exit off the bridge and get to a safer place so they could give us assistance.
This was all well and good, but it was not safe for us to drive any further because it was still bucketing down and we could not see anything without the windscreen wipers working. We just had to sit and wait for the rain to stop or at least lighten up enough that we could try to get off the bridge. The night sky got darker.
I started receiving calls from the hospital wanting to know how much longer I would be because they had specially made the cashier wait until 8pm so I could pay my hospital fees upfront before going into hospital. Let’s not even go there. My private health insurance is very bad. I should have done more research before signing up to it a dozen years ago.
About an hour later, the rain had begun to subside enough that we thought we could try to make it to the next exit off the bridge. Cautiously, we took off and found our way off the bridge and into a side street where we could wait for roadside assistance.
When the roadside assistance man turned up in his big truck, my friend told him how she was trying to get me to hospital and how we were running very late. ‘That’s ok, I’ll take her,’ he said. So I left my friend and her daughter in a side street, hopped into the big, flashy truck with the roadside assistance man (who’s wife also had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and beaten it) and he drove me to the hospital. It was not the way I expected I would arrive at the hospital that night. Finally, at 10pm, I was in a hospital bed with intravenous antibiotics about to be pumped into me, wishing I had just caught a taxi as planned, and feeling guilty for leaving my friend and her daughter abandoned in a side street just because they tried to help me.
Life doesn’t always work out the way you expect though, does it? You just have to roll with it. Besides, it was my stupidity that had caused all of this to happen, though you can see there were some circumstances that pushed me to make some very, very silly decisions.
It was just one of those times when everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. No wonder I was so angry during that four-day hospital stay where I developed my theory of it being like a long-haul flight. I felt fine, but I was in hospital and paying $1000 a night for the privilege, not to mention the boarding kennel fees. You can bet I ordered every single thing on the hospital menu to make sure I got my money’s worth and I did not say no to any offers of morning or afternoon tea.
We did win the battle against the infection eventually, though it was touch and go for a while. I didn’t have to have further surgery to remove the tissue expander and clean out the mastectomy site.
I did have to delay starting radiotherapy for one month while we waited for everything to heal. Sure, that sometimes plays on my mind that maybe I wouldn’t be in the mess I am now if I had started radiotherapy a month earlier as originally planned. Or it may have made no difference at all and I could have still had the same outcome if it had started on time.
Things happened, and decisions were made. I can’t change any of that now. I can only deal with what is in front of me and hope that I never have to confront such a muddle of bad circumstances like that ever again.