Nukes and Rebukes: Surgery Day Part 1

First stop, the London Independent Hospital (pictured) in Bethnal Green.

For the second time in three months (the previous occasion being surgery on my left foot), I am having a medical procedure carried out in a private hospital, paid for by the NHS. It’s still free at the point of use for me, but it’s very galling. Some part of the fee paid by the NHS to this hospital will end up as profit for its owners. And because of that, it would, by definition, be cheaper for the NHS to provide the procedure itself – unless the private hospital is cutting corners (aka “achieving efficiencies”) in some way.

The London Independent is owned by BMI Healthcare, which is owned by the General Hospitals Group, which is one of the big five operators in the private health market in the UK. It’s registered in the British Virgin Islands. Tax loophole, much? More here.

Anyways, back to Monday morning’s business, and my arrival at the private hospital. Fortunately, this did not play out like the scene in The Omen when devil-spawn Damien’s parents take him to church.

Check in, sit and wait. Thank you very much to the Independent newspaper for providing copies for patients packed with puzzles. As the world’s most impatient patient, these are a useful distraction and brain workout.

Not that I had to wait for long. Pretty soon, I was whisked into the Nuclear Medicine department. I have to say that its name above the door was something of a deterrent.

When I have my surgery later, back in the arms of the wonderful NHS, the surgeon will need a map of the inside of my boob, and in particular, of my sentinel lymph nodes. At least one of these will be removed. Although the cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes, it’s apparently a good idea to whip out the nearest ones to the breast and this will prevent it spreading there in future. As surgeon Ms Pravanta told me previously, “If we take out the ground floor nodes, then the penthouse ones will be safe.” Hence, the nuclear scan at the London Independent.

The very pleasant radiographer man offered me a female nurse chaperone, but my other ‘arf John was with me, so there was no need.

The nuclear scan involves lying on a bed that forms part of a scanning machine, a bit like a mini MRI scanner. The radiographer injected radioactive dye into my breast, just by the nipple. The site of the injection swelled up, and I had to massage it to encourage the dye to move along its route towards the lymph nodes. This was rather uncomfortable and stung a bit.

After a bit of massaging, the dye was on its way, and I was on my way into the scanner. Lucky for me, the dye only took a few minutes to complete its journey – for some women, it can take up to half and hour. The scan itself was non-invasive, painless and over quickly. It just involved lying still. I’m quite good at that.

Having consulted the map of my bap on his screen (below), the radiographer drew an X on my skin where the sentinel node was, thus becoming the first of three people who would draw on my boob during the course of the day. I feel like an artist’s canvass, or perhaps a designer’s drawing board – or maybe the walls of a subway attracting an unusual line in cancer-related graffiti.

The radiographer assured me that despite this being a nuclear scan, I was not radioactive. So I cancelled Hug a Tory Day.

Oh, and one more thing … The nuclear dye makes your wee go blue. First visit to the khazi at home and, forgetting this, I thought momentarily that a very conscientious member of my family had put some of that lovely blue toilet cleaner in the bowl. Oh no. It was my urine.

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