Every Breath You Take

23rd May

A brilliant summery morning, the sun streaming through the windscreen and highlighting all the dirt, dust and bugs as I drive to Pontivy for my lung function testing. Must think long and hard about cleaning the car before doing nothing about it until shouted at.

I present myself at porte cinque on the ground floor and am deposited in the waiting room. Today is a test, or series of tests to check the extent of my lung function prior to any surgery, so I shall probably be blowing into some sort of plastic ribbed tube. Thinking of that reminds of holidaying in Ostend with mum way back when. I guess I must have been between eight and ten. A toy that everyone seem to have over there was a plastic ribbed tube, a metre long which you hold at one end and whirl around, making a sort of howling, whirring, otherworldly noise. I badgered mum for one and she relented, though I bet she immediately regretted it. Knowing me I probably whirled that thing around FOREVER. It’s funny how some thing stick in your head; I remember only two other things from that holiday, going to a petting zoo and getting a bag of grain and being mobbed by deer and some random bloke trying to chat mum up on the sea front.

The nurse comes to collect me. She is short and stocky with a kind face. She has no English but she seems to understand my broken French and I understand what she is saying as well. In her room there is a desk and next to it a booth of some sort, metal framed with clear plastic. It has a sliding front door. She points to the booth and I sit inside but she does not close the door. Yet. When I am seated she hands me a mouth piece attached to thin grey plastic tube, not ribbed, not large, not fun. I clamp my mouth around it, my teeth squeeze against the round plastic. Firstly I am to take a deep breath in and push it out all the way. I do this and get an immediate head rush. As I breathe in and then out I observe the computer monitor she is watching and see a coloured line go up and then down across the XY axis. Secondly, through the medium of mime, she indicates I am to take sharp breath in and then sharp out. I do this too. A different coloured line, a different shape on the screen. Next she gets me to put my feet on the platform within the booth and slides the door closed.  There is a ‘schoom’ sound as the door connects and I think, but I’m not sure, that the air is removed from inside.  My teeth again clamp down on the tube. She now mimes I am to pant hard and rapidly. I smile as best I can around the mouth piece, heavy breathing is right in my wheelhouse. When she points at me I start but after a few hard pants there is a sudden change in pressure down the tube which I try to pant through. The nurse stops the machine and shakes her head sadly. I have failed. She mimes the hard panting process again and I try once more. This time I punch through when the change occurs and there is apparent success. Nurse smiles broadly and gives me the thumbs up. She opens the door and gives me a Ventelin inhaler and says I am to wait. Five long minutes pass by and then I am to get down to heavy panting again but outside the booth this time. This we do. Taking the mouth piece away, she prints out my results, gives it to me and sends me back to the waiting room. After a while Dr B, the man who did my bronchoscopy, comes to collect me. When we are seated in his office he looks at me with a distracted air as if he recognises me but not from where or when. I say, “bronchoscopy” and his eyes light up and he says, “aah, oui”. Through his broken English and my broken French we communicate. He expresses confusion as to what is happening with my case, his clicking and tapping on the computer is not giving him any answers. He wonders who is in charge so I mention Dr S and he calls him. Whilst he waits he tells me that my lung function is normal. Dr S comes on the line and some rapid French is exchanged between them. Then Dr B smiles and he tells me I am to receive notification of dates for tests and surgery etc. And ushers me out.

26th May

Having received notice of the need for a fresh CT scan, P, who is off work says she can drive me down to the clinique that afternoon. For some reason P is full of fuss about getting out on time but I can’t find the letter or my attestation, she can’t find the car keys or her bag and we are in a rush trying to find everything whilst Clochette rushes around with a wagging tail thinking she’s getting a second walk. Eventually all is found and we’re all happy except Clochette, left moping on the doorstep as we drive away. The temperature outside is thirty two degrees and I am feeling every degree as we wait for the a/c to kick in.  At the clinic we try to find a shady spot for the car with no success. The receptionist is new, it may even be her first day and she is being guided by a colleague with a magnificently opulent cleavage, the kind of gappy, over the top arrangement that is less a peek at hidden delights and more a car crash you cannot look away from. Though we have no problems with getting in we do have one questions whilst we wait. Normally when one has a CT scan in France you receive a prescription for the contrast they inject into to you to make you more visible, which you either buy or collect (depending on insurance) from the pharmacy. We got no prescription with our appointment letter.

I am ushered in to the scanning room by a very pretty nurse, young, blonde and with a pert nose. Impossibly Pretty Nurses s are back! I relax on the table as she butchers my arm getting the needle in:


Pretty, huh? Thankfully this is rare.

When the sliding in and out of the scanner, the breathing and holding the breath etc. Is done, IPN asks me when I ma seeing a doctor for consultation. I am seeing someone next Tuesday I say. Would I like to see a doctor now, about the results of this scan? Well, okay, I say. Back outside and P asks if we can go and I tell her we can see a doc right now about the scan. She humphs a bit about waiting but before we know it we are taken in to a tiny room to wait for the doctor. This is a weird room, a bit like the type of cheap nasty chapel you get in some hospitals or prisons, a small table, a couple of chairs and for no real reason and sideboard with a raffia ball on top. No sign of a cross on the wall. We wait a bit and I peruse the French version of Saga magazine, thinking to myself, “I am way too young for thi… ooh! comfy shoes!” Just as P is getting impatient, the door opens and in comes Dr. N! He comes over, looking as handsome as ever and as he’s about to shake my hand P gets in and vigorously pumps his hand. He tells us there is nothing to spot except Brian in the lung or the lymph nodes, and subject to word from the PET scan all is looking good. Lots of thanks all round and off we go. As we go P comments on how Dr N wanted to shake my hand, a man’s hand, first, as if he was being rude to her. She sounds mildly annoyed, true, but there is a glow to her cheeks and a shines in her eyes, so…

On the way to car I spot the new French craze for freeze drying your dead pets and keeping them with you always:


It’s sweet really, not creepy at all, no.


About donaldmets501

I read, I write, I play softball, I feed the chickens. I am as in love with Phylly as I was all those years ago when we married. I thank the gods/daemons/fates or who/whatever gave me cancer - truly a case of cloud/silver lining!
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