Customer Information: Your Treatment Has Been Delayed

I am writing this in an airport.

My 50th birthday was on Thursday. Strangely, The Sun and The Mail are not questioning my age.

I have had the most excellent of celebrations: a party and book/CD/tour launch the night before; performing with Attila the Stockbroker and The Men They Couldn’t Hang on the big day itself; and a weekend away with my other ‘arf, John, in Lewes. Along the way, I hooked up with some great friends old and new, and paid respects to the victims and survivors of the Aberfan coal disaster, in which 144 lives ended on the day mine began.

When I texted my poem about Aberfan to BBC Radio 5 Live, they rang and asked me to come on air. But I had to say No – because I had to start my 50th birthday with an appointment at the breast cancer clinic.

My disappointment at this was multiplied when it turned out that the appointment was a waste of time. The results of the biopsy on my second lump are not yet in, so the appointment has been rebooked for 1 November. I won’t know for another week and a half when my surgery will be or what other treatment I may need.

This is rather frustrating, and not just because I am the world’s most impatient outpatient.

Aside from my regular job (as a Night Tube station supervisor), I do freelance work running training courses and performing poetry (usually separately, occasionally together). This further delay in setting dates has left me with no choice but to cancel a couple of gigs, and feeling guilty about messing about other promoters and training hirers. Fortunately they are, to a person, kind and understanding folk.

Over the summer, I took a cut in hours – and therefore pay – in my regular job, partly to facilitate more of the freelance work, so this cancer is beginning to impact on my income. In particular, I have just launched my new poetry book/CD/tour, with the expectation of selling the books and CDs on the tour, some of which will now have to be called off. It’s a pretty time-specific theme – ’16: The Age of Discontent: a ranting, rhyming, revolting review of the year – so possibilities for rebooking are limited.

Ah well, you’ll just have to buy the book/CD online – help a poet in distress!

It does remind me that the regular job is a rock and that all workers deserve reliable employment with decent wages, 100% sick pay and a final-salary pension – and that we won this through trade union struggle rather than employer generosity.

Still, the cloudy treatment delay has its silver lining. I can go ahead with driving to Calais with a convoy of friends and donations for the refugees on 2 November. (Get in touch if you would like to donate.) And I can go ahead with my trip to Sofia for a meeting of the European Transport Workers Federation’s Women’s Committee. And that’s why I’m writing this in an airport. Luton Airport.

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