I was going to leave blogging for tonight for fear that I might overstay my welcome in your news feeds before I have really got going. In my quiet moments I have, sadly, been entertaining myself on other blog sites seeing how frequently new entries are posted. Regularly it seems, but not every day. However, I once again found myself listening to political analysis (I need to change stations don’t I?), and this time it didn’t just anger me, it touched a nerve. In fact, I think perhaps this blog could be subtitled ‘How to Save a Life’.
When I found a lump in my breast 4 years ago I went straight to the doctor. Well within 2 weeks I was given an urgent appointment, had all the tests necessary to diagnose an aggressive cancer and left the hospital with tamoxifen and another appointment. Within a month of the tests I had a mastectomy, and as soon as the necessary recovery period had elapsed I started chemotherapy, and then went through three weeks of radiotherapy. I had the treatment I needed, and wanted, when I needed and wanted it. Since then I have had reconstruction, a bit of remodelling and am now, as you may have read a few days ago, having the artwork to finalize the new me.
The NHS is by no means perfect, and cancer treatment (not just breast cancer of course) in this country does lag behind some other countries. However, the pledge to get a patient in front of a specialist within 2 weeks is a commitment to treasure. Cancer, of all the hideous illnesses that can strike, still turns even the calmest person into an anxious bundle, unable to function until a diagnosis can be made, and if it is the worst news, treatment started quickly. David Cameron fudged the issue today in the Commons and I applaud Harriet Harman for pressing him on the point. To suggest somehow that the two-week pledge is not as important as timely follow-ups and appropriate treatment (including the most expensive drug regimes frequently refused under current policy) seems to imply that if cancer patients would just mind waiting a bit longer to find out whether or not their lives will be turned upside down, sit in limbo imagining an early death and separation from loved ones whilst potentially deadly cells continue to divide madly inside them, then they can be more confident that if their cancer has spread and become harder to deal with they will get currently unavailable treatments.
I know that finding my cancer early and seeing a specialist quickly was the best way to ensure a positive outcome for me, and for my young family. There is no replacement for that speedy diagnosis, and the period before you know exactly what you are facing is the worst part. The treatment starts and you go along with whatever is thrown at you just to stay alive. I know target driven health care is not always the best way forward, but I would make an impassioned plea to the Government not to discard this one. It has saved lives, many of them. It may have saved mine.