My name is called for my brain scan. The nurse is behind a glass screen and is wearing a mask.
‘Mumble, mumble, mumble,’ she says. I tell her I’m deaf, and that when people are behind a screen and wearing a mask, I can’t hear a word.
‘Mumble, mumble, mumble.’
I turn to Nic, who has driven me here, as I’m too dizzy to drive. She’s morphed into my carer.
‘What did the nurse say?’
‘She said, “Have you read the notice on the wall about not having been abroad and have you lost your sense of taste.”’
‘Well, OK, tell her I read the notice as it was posted to me along with the time of my appointment. I only dress in wellies and a Barbour as I live in the countryside!’
I don’t think the nurse is laughing behind her mask, as her demeanour says otherwise.
I’m led into a room, asked to remove my wellies, which smell strongly of horse, and to lie down on the bed. I’m worried about lying flat, as it makes me dizzy, but I’m OK. After a few seconds, the scan is over.
‘When will I get the results?’
‘When you see the consultant, in two months’ time. There is a global pandemic, you know.’
I had a health scare once before. I was in my late 40s, married. I started bleeding. My (then private) GP sent me to a (private) gynaecologist on Harley Street. She did lots of tests. She probed. She squirted cold gel on my tummy and took a scan. It was like one of those scenes in a film, except there was no tiny heartbeat, there was no smiling man grasping my hand, as my husband had gone to watch Spurs. ‘That’s your womb,’ she said. Blimey, I really believed I didn’t have one. Then she stopped. ‘Hmmm,’ she said. ‘There is something on the wall. We will have to take a sample.’
She booked me into a private hospital. I asked my husband to take me, but he said I could get a cab. When I came to after surgery, I felt sick, so I asked a nurse to hold back my hair. She refused. I called my husband.
‘Your wife. I’ve just come round.’
‘Did they tell you anything?’
‘Oh, yeah, you have endometriosis, so they removed a lot of, I don’t know, female stuff.’
‘What about the blip on my womb wall?’
‘I’ve no idea. I didn’t ask.’
The next day, he came to fetch me. We got in a cab. ‘Can you tell him to drive slowly over speed bumps, as I’m in agony.’
‘I’m not going to do that. I’m sure he knows what he is doing.’
There is always someone who comes before me. I went up to my lovely bedroom, with its floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the garden square. I remember thinking, ‘I don’t want to leave this house by dying. It’s too perfect.’ About six hours later, my husband appeared and handed me a bunch of grapes, still in the plastic punnet. In its midst was the carapace of a dead spider.
A few days later, back on my feet, I went to Harley Street to get the results of the biopsy. My gynaecologist looked cheerful. ‘So, everything’s OK?’ I asked her.
‘Oh yes. I’m going skiing this weekend!’
‘I mean with my biopsy.’
‘Oh, I haven’t got the results, sorry. Let me call them now.’
It turned out it was nothing. As I left her office, she said, ‘You have two or three years left before the menopause. Enjoy your hormones! And now I’ve got rid of the fibroids, you should feel more cheerful!’
I didn’t take her advice. I didn’t enjoy my hormones. I wasn’t more cheerful. But this time, if I get the all-clear and a cure for the vertigo, I’m determined to enjoy life. To not dread the walk upstairs. To be able to turn my head to watch Mini Puppy sniff. To go to the Co-Op without hanging on to strangers. That’s all I want. That will be enough.