Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Perfect Diagnosis

They give you an appointment to give you the results. Then they rang to check I was attending and bringing someone with me.

Then we had the appointment. With the same doctor who I'd had all along. And he was there with two other people. One sitting down and one standing. There was a little bit of small talk. And then the nice doctor said 'I'm sorry to say but the lump is malignant.' And they let us ask a load of questions. The doors were locked to stop us being interrupted. And he said I probably wouldn't remember much of the conversation as it's shocking news so we could just go home now, tell the family, and come back next week to discuss the treatment plan. And then the person sitting down introduced herself as the breast cancer nurse who would be the main point of contact, she gave me her pager details and a load of leaflets - about breast cancer, its treatment and alternative treatment at the breast cancer centre. And that was that. As perfect a textbook diagnosis you could ask for.

But God help you if you get dementia. Chances are (50%) you or your relatives will never get a diagnosis. And the diagnosis is never perfect. The so-called 'Nice' guidelines recommend not to tell you if they think you don't want to know. There is nobody applying the sorts of standards of Cancer Care to dementia. Nobody will ever discuss a treatment plan with you, mainly because there isn't one, because the care slips through the gaps between personal care (social services) and health care. It's a long, difficult death, lasting 20 years but you won't die at home or in a hospice. They're all for cancer patients (95%).

I won't be cycling round the world I'm afraid. Or doing a triathlon, or in fact anything where some poor souls have to sponsor me. Cancer patients are well served. And they have plenty of people, dead and alive fighting for their corner. I don't know whether to crack open the champagne or cry for 2 years over the death of this Cancer Superwoman. I prefer Cherie Booth to be honest.

But if I help a quicker and better diagnosis for even one dementia patient I'll be a little happier. If I stop one doctor writing 'Old Age' as the primary cause on one death certificate I'll be a little happier. And I will be very sanctimonious about it indeed. As sanctimonious and victorious as the next cancer superwoman. And if anyone writes poison pen letters telling me to vote Tory, euthanasia works, have chemo once a week, stop reading, stop studying, worship Madonna, stop eating out, sell my engagement ring or some other thing that I don't want to do in a million years I won't be dignified. I will tell them to piss off.

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