Extracts from a diary about a man dying of cancer in Great Britain in 2001…

I was supposed to waken up at 8.30am today. Instead, I woke up at noon.

This is what comes of spending too much time in Cumbria.

So, instead of the planned blog (which involved transcribing a chat) – and because it just involves copy-and-pasting – you are getting extracts from my 2001 diary when my father had cancer.

There have been previous extracts, so I can claim it is a running thread.


My parents in Edinburgh, perhaps in the 1970s. Who knows?

My parents in Edinburgh, perhaps in the 1970s. I do not know

Tuesday 22nd May 2001

When we visited my father this afternoon, he had one bite of a chocolate cake, then stopped. About three minutes later, he was sick, the chocolate-brown liquid dribbling from his mouth. Today, he had walked eight steps (aided by zimmer frame and two nurses) to his commode (he is badly constipated). Before he was sick, he told us he had little pains all over his stomach – perhaps, I thought, because the liver cancer is gaining strength. How much longer before he needs opium?


Wednesday 23rd May 2001

In the morning, when I got up, my mother was sitting weak in her chair, saying: “I can’t use my legs”. Over the course of the day, they got back to normal.

My father in the afternoon was still constipated, as he had been yesterday, still weak and his mind unable to take in anything he was being told until the second or third repeat. My mother, her mind unable to think in a linear way, would say something without context to my father who would be unable to understand until she repeated it, I guessed what she meant and repeated it again to him. Today was the first time he used the phrase: “If I come home….” instead of “When I come home….” The palms and fingertips of his hands were abnormally pink, his fingers thinner and bonier than before, his eyes with a distant white light in their pupils.


Thursday 24th May 2001

After lunch, coming into the living room on her zimmer frame, my mother looked in amazement and confusion at the television set in the far corner of the room, showing an Australian soap, mute. After a few seconds, she said: “I’m going mad. I didn’t know what the TV was.”


Friday 25th May 2001

My mother fell down in her bedroom at 6.30am this morning and was unable to get up for, she told me, half an hour – though I suspect it was much longer.

I knew nothing about it until I got up at 9.00am.

At the nursing home, my father has been given an airbed to avoid bedsores.


Bank Holiday Monday 28th May 2001

Extract from a letter delivered to Colchester General Hospital:

Mike Pollard
Chief Executive
Colchester General Hospital
Turner Road
Colchester
Essex CO4 5JL

delivered by hand 28th May 2001

Dear Mr Pollard,

This letter is a complaint that Colchester Audiology Department are refusing to supply my father (who has liver cancer) with a hearing aid specifically made (after many months) for him. I am being told that the hearing aid must lie on a shelf in Colchester Hospital until such unknown time as a Colchester Audiologist may decide to wander down to Clacton Hospital. This, I am told, could take “up to six months”. I am further told I cannot collect it from Colchester and it must lie unused there “in case it does not work”  and “so we can show your father how to use it”.  These are direct quotes and the reasons given for keeping the hearing aid lying useless on a shelf.

If the hearing aid is supplied, there is – let’s be careful and say – a 10% possibility it will work and my father will benefit from it. There is – let’s be careful and say – a 10% possibility we can work it and my father will benefit from it. However, if Colchester Hospital do not supply the hearing aid, there is a 100% certainty my father will not benefit.

This is not healthcare, this is vacuous, mindless bureaucracy with the emphasis on mindless. My father had his first appointment to arrange the hearing aid at 11.15am on 13th September 2000 although, over-all, the process has been going on for a year.


At the nursing home, my father’s mind was very, very confused. After seeing him, my mother, my aunt and I drove back in total silence.

At home, my mother was very depressed, with deep furrows on brows above pained eyes: “He’s not getting any better,” she said flatly.


Tuesday 29th May 2001 (I was working away in Cardiff)

On the phone, my mother sounded depressed, telling me my father was very confused – even moreso than yesterday.


Wednesday 30th May 2001 (I was working away in Cardiff)

“His mind was much clearer today,” my mother told me of my father.


Thursday 31st May

When my mother and my aunt (his sister) went in to see my father today, he was wondering where his sister was, despite the fact she was sitting by the bed. Both the matron and my aunt thought he was looking jaundiced, though my mother did not think so. The last time I saw him I, too, had thought his skin looked a little yellow.

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Filed under Death, Health

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