Indeed what is the hatter with me? Of course, I realise we all say things back to front sometimes. I feel quite certain that I am not the only person who has run for a bus whilst wearing a boob tube only to come face to face, or in my case boob to face with the bus driver! I am certain that I am not the only woman to wander around searching for her glasses while having them on. Or am I? Is it a rarity to return your library books along with one of your own books? I know you will all tell me it is quite common. And just as I finally convinced myself that what happened to me last Friday was not in the least bit unusual, convincing myself, in fact, that it was all down to hormones. After all they have been leading me a merry dance hadn’t they? Then my lovely husband Andrew commented that he thought I was stark staring mad!
‘Mad, that’s what you are. Stark, staring, mad.’
OK, maybe he didn’t use those exact words but I knew what he meant. Of course, I headed straight for the fridge and felt better almost right away. Well, after consuming two toffee yogurts with some honey followed by a Marks and Spencer meringue and half a box of left-over chocolates. So, what happened last Friday? OK, seeing as you’re twisting my arm, I shall tell you. Now, where should I begin? It started off fine enough. I have had plenty of time at home to get most things done and have not felt in the least stressed. Heaven knows why I am saying all this. In my defense I should be thinking of some excuse at least.
Friday is a special day in the Cook household. All sorts of weird and wonderful things go on here. Don’t you just wish you were me? I pop to the supermarket to buy something special for dinner. It is the end of the week, after all. Then I drop into the local video hire shop and rent two DVDs for us to watch that evening. And of course, the Pièce de résistance, the special treat food. Chocolate biscuits, savoury crackers and wine. Oh, yes, we know how to live, do Andrew and I. This particular Friday I seemed to have more time than usual. I popped into the town library. I hadn’t been there for some time and was impressed at the improvements that had been made and browsed the DVDs on offer and then looked at the books. Finally I headed for the counter, except there wasn’t one. I mean, there used to be one but now there isn’t one any more. It had just gone. How can a library be a library if you can’t check your books out? Then, I spotted it. A self-service, checkout counter. Oh no! It isn’t that I hate using these things. I just hate using them for the first time, even more so today when I have a stack of books and not a clue how to now safely leave the library with them without setting off all kinds of alarms. Any thought I had of stealing them are quickly dismissed. Instead, I stand, trying to look incognito while studying the borrowers as they use the new-fangled dangled check out. I convince myself if an eighty year old can do it, so can I. Not so. After a considerable amount of embarrassed fumbling I get the eighty year old to assist me and vow never to return. Relieved to be out of there I head to the supermarket. At least I know how to check out my goods there. Everything goes very well and I take my purchases to the till, pay and leave. I quickly pack the bags into the car as I sense someone waiting for my space. I dutifully take my trolley back and drive home with the radio blaring. I have DVDs, a nice dinner, delicious treats and the sun is shining. Back home, Andrew helps me unpack the goods and I make some tea and begin preparing lunch.
‘Did you get my text?’ asks Andrew, innocently.
‘Oh, did you send me one?’ Asks me stupidly. Obviously he did, or he wouldn’t be asking me if I received it.
‘I’ll check my phone,’ I say confidently walking into the lounge to fetch my handbag which is NOT on the table. I lean lazily across the arm of the chair for it but it ISN’T there either.
‘Is my bag in the kitchen?’ I shout, unconcerned.
‘No,’ answers Andrew in a wary voice as he obviously awaits my explosion,
‘Stupid, I must have left it In the car,’ I say cheerfully, strolling outside.
It ISN’T there. Good heavens, it isn’t there! My hand bag has disappeared!
I rush inside.
‘Oh my god, I must have left my bag in the shopping trolley.’
Andrew stares at me.
‘But you brought the shopping home, how could you have left it in the trolley?’ he says accusingly and I immediately want the floor to open up and swallow me.
‘Well, I pack the shopping and leave the handbag in the trolley. So when I went to put the trolley back in the trolley park I must have left it in it.’
He looks at me stupidly.
‘But that is a crazy thing to do. Why would you do that?’
I grab the phone and beg him to look up the number on the internet.
He makes a huffing sound.
‘You’re mad you are.’ He states, walking upstairs to his computer. Meanwhile a nice man answers the phone at Sainsbury’s.
‘Oh, hello, I am so sorry. I think I must be losing the plot,’ I stammer, thinking if I sound helpless he will most certainly say.
‘Oh, that handbag, yes we have it.’
‘I think I left my handbag in a shopping trolley.’
He doesn’t laugh. Is that a good or bad sign?
‘What does it look like?’
Doesn’t he know what a shopping trolley looks like? There are enough of them. Oh, of course, he means the handbag.
My mind goes blank. Why can’t I remember what my handbag looks like? Why is it I can only think of the credit cards in there and my Blackberry and driving licence and oh god, a spare pair of knickers!
‘It’s black,’ I hear myself saying. Well, that narrows it down doesn’t it? NOT. He sighs,
‘Oh, oh,’ I say, suddenly remembering. ‘It has Harrods on it.’
Oh god, do I now sound snooty?
‘Ah, yes we have it.’
My heart leaps and my legs stop trembling.
‘You’ll need to bring some identification, obviously.’
‘A passport would be good.’
I hang up and fly upstairs to Andrew.
‘They have it. I have to go back. See you in twenty minutes.’
I dash to the car and drive off, music blaring, and thinking how honest people are. It is as I am very near that I realise that I had forgotten the passport. I curse and feel like crying. What is the hatter with me? I park the car and spot the letter I had received from the DVLA when receiving my tax disc. I grab it and march up to customer services and thrust it in the man’s face before he can speak.
‘I left my handbag in a trolley and inside is a matching card to this,’ I say holding up my arm and shoving my radio iodine tag in his face. He steps back horrified. At last, my radio iodine treatment comes into its own.
‘What’s that for?’ he squeals.
‘Oh. It’s nothing really. You are quite safe. I am just a little bit radioactive. Oh, yes that’s my bag.’ I say spotting it on the counter.
Thankfully he has forgotten about the passport ID and almost throws the bag at me. I rush outside checking it frantically and then let out a deep sigh. Everything is there. Nothing missing. If only the same could be said about my head.
I never in my wildest dreams, and I have some wild dreams, I can tell you, imagined I would be frantic to find a Betterware catalogue. But a week or so after someone had pushed it through my letterbox I am desperate to trace it. Somewhere within the pages is an item I now cannot live without and no one else seems to sell it. The latter probably is not strictly true but the I can’t live without it part, most certainly is. Of course up until a week ago I really couldn’t have cared less if I had one. After all I had Andrew (my husband) then. Ah, yes, that has got you thinking and wanting to read more. What has Betterware got, you are thinking, that can replace a husband? You are now thinking, could you use one, in fact, you are probably wondering, if perhaps you may even need one. In my case it was a culmination of things really but throwing Andrew out of the bedroom is the primary reason it is needed. Good god, I hear you women cry as you reach for the Yellow pages to search for your local Betterware representative. Although, of course, in this day and age of Technology, you are probably reaching for your Blackberry’s and searching on Google to find the item that can replace a husband in the bedroom. Why is it though, when I do not want a Betterware catalogue or any of their goods do I continually fall over the damn thing until the rep finally collects it? But when I do want it, it miraculously disappears only to turn up in the most unlikely place? Anyway, I found it, and there on page five is the item I covert. Of course, none of this would be necessary if I had a perfectly good thyroid and no they don’t sell perfectly good thyroid’s at Betterware but they do sell the next best thing. So, you are wondering what my thyroid or lack of one has got to do with all of this.
Last Monday, I had a second dose of radio iodine therapy. This in very simple terms means I am radioactive for 12 days. The lovely lady who administered the dose, well, if you call handing me a capsule in a long tube, administering. I rather think I performed the dirty deed actually. Yes, come to think of it, I remember they had all legged it before I had even brought my head back up. Anyway, she was quite stern about all the precautions I needed to take. The worst part is that you feel perfectly fine for the first forty-eight hours while you are spewing radiation everywhere. The power is quite intoxicating. The temptation to walk into Tesco and shout, ‘Step away from the Mackerel’ is overwhelmingly tempting. But of course, I didn’t. Instead I went straight home to a very happy Bendy who purred around my legs.
‘Go away,’ I cried. ‘Shoo, go next door.’
Not the usual greeting he receives. Of course, he ignored all my efforts to keep him at bay and has done for the past week and for some odd reason he seems to be more in love with me while I am potentially killing him then he ever was before. I phoned Nuclear medicine three days later in a panic.
‘What is the procedure regarding pets. After all they are very small and I have had a double dose.’ Anyone overhearing me would probably wonder what kind of double dose I had contracted. Dear me, one dreads to think. Accept no one is likely to get close enough to overhear for fear of death by radiation.
‘There is no legal requirement regarding pets, so he is ok.’
I tried to absorb what she was saying.
‘But it was a double dose.’
‘There’s no legal requirement.’
What she means is, If I kill him, I will be quite safe. The RSPCA can’t touch me. I continue with my shoo shooing to no avail. I even go into a massive panic when the pigeons fly into the garden. I don’t want to be the cause of a mass pigeon slaughter. I struggle to keep my towel separate from Andrew’s but he keeps mixing them up. I shout at him when he gets closer than an arm’s length and order him to the spare room at bedtime. This may sound easy to most of you but in our case the spare room is not even in the house! And no, I haven’t banished him to a hotel. Our spare room over the past few years has slowly become an office. So, we built a good size summer-house which converts into a very nice spare room but it is in the garden! Every night, we say a miserable goodnight to each other over the phones intercom. Of course, for many women this might be a dream come true. However, take a few seconds to consider the usefulness of your man, apart from the obvious, which we won’t even go into, except to say that when you are radiating radiation, it puts something of a damper on your libido. In my case, he has reluctantly become the spider catcher. Just five seconds of me screaming hysterically, while standing on the bed, usually after knocking over a glass of water in my trembling frenzy, is enough to have him grabbing a pillow and squashing the thing to death. Why don’t you kill them with radiation, I hear you ask. Well, they are hardy little suckers, these spiders. But the big problem right now is that Andrew shows no signs of rapidly turning into Jack Bauer in the near future. By the time he answers my frantic intercom ring, gets dressed, comes into the house, climbs the stairs and leisurely enters the bedroom, of course, the damn monster has gone. I spend the night lying in bed a quivering wreck. So, the answer is the spider catcher. At five pounds fifty pence, it is a bargain. The question is will I be able to get close enough to catch the spider? Watch this space.
Why is it whenever I go to the hospital nothing goes according to plan? Yesterday, I left work to attend my eleven a.m. appointment with promises of ‘I won’t be long’ and ‘I’ll make up the hours.’ Ten minutes later, after a leisurely drive I arrive at the hospital twenty minutes early. I can’t believe my luck, there is a parking space right outside the Endocrine clinic. With much reluctance, I push a £1 coin into the ticket machine. Don’t you just hate paying for the privilege of being told your blood pressure is up and your thyroid is still crap? Still, I tell myself a pound, is not that bad for 45 mins. The things I tell myself, I ask you. I stroll up to the desk and approach the receptionist who gives me a mean look.
‘I have an appointment at eleven o clock,’ I say forcing a smile.
‘Name?’ She barks and holds out her hand for my appointment card, which of course I have forgotten.
Determined not to be intimidated I pull my Blackberry from my bag and point it at her like a gun.
‘I have a text with the appointment time.’ I say with an attempt at being assertive.
That throws her and she backs down.
‘Your Doctor’s name?’ She barks again.
‘Frankenstein,’ I mutter but she doesn’t hear me.
‘Has your situation changed since your last visit?’
Which situation would that be? I wonder. What an awful question. Don’t you just feel so embarrassed that nothing in your life has changed in six months? I shake my head miserably in answer to her question.
‘Take a seat, someone will call you.’
I debate reading one of their magazines but after scrutinising the patient who put the Hello magazine back, I change my mind. Anyway I am on time so will probably go in soon. Ah, as if on cue, I am called. I am taken into a small room to have my blood pressure taken.
‘This is your first visit?’ Asks the nurse.
I am already on the weighing scales and rolling up my sleeve. I mean, do I look like a virgin?
‘Far from it,’ I say trying not to be too facetious.
‘Oh, the receptionist seems to think this is your first visit.’
Good lord I forget my appointment letter and everything goes tits up it seems. My blood pressure is up and I swallow two beta blockers and am sent back outside to wait for the consultant to call me. I wait and I wait and I wait and I wait. Everyone who was there when I arrived has gone. I have been there an hour and my parking ticket is about to expire. I feel my blood pressure rising. I approach the desk and enquire when I can expect to be seen not expecting this simple question to cause such confusion.
My god, has she forgotten it already. I tell her again and she studies her computer screen.
‘What time was your appointment?’
I feel myself shudder at the word was.
‘Eleven,’ I repeat.
Five minutes later and she tells me that she has found me on the system and I am informed that I will be next. I wander outside and push a £2 coin into the machine. I walk back inside feeling like I have just been mugged.
I wait and I wait. I have now been there two hours. I still have to make up my time at work. I feel a headache brewing. Are hospitals there to make you sick? Is this how they drum up business?
Finally, I am called in. It is now 12.30.
‘So ve are having the radio iodine treatment again yes,’ asks the consultant checking my pulse.
‘Ve give you, double dose this time.’ Says my German, Swedish, Hungarian, well she’s not English, put it that way,consultant.
‘Double dose,’ I stutter, ‘Is that safe?’
‘Every zing is doubled,’ she nods emphatically not actually saying if it is safe or not.
I try to absorb the everything is doubled concept.
‘So the time I need off work is…
‘Doubled,’ she repeats. ‘Before was 5 days, now every zing double, so off work for 12 days.’
I debate telling her that her figures do not seem right but she is squeezing my throat, in a nice way you understand.
‘I sleep separately from my husband for?’ I ask in a strangled voice.
‘Double, every zing double, you sleep apart for 12 days, no social life for 27 days. This time you are double radioactive. Ve make sure it work.’
Kill or cure huh? I open my mouth and then close it again deciding I do not have the time to argue. My thyroid and I really have not been getting along, so the sooner it goes the better. So, in two weeks’ time I am to come back and swallow a radioactive capsule. I am to be anti-social for 27 days but at the end I have the pleasure of becoming under active. Yes, well, you may not find it exciting but for me it is worth the anti-social behaviour. Thank god for Facebook is all I can say…social interaction with every zing safe.
I went to see my endocrine consultant in a confident mood. So confident in fact that I took my book to read in the waiting room. I knew we were having trouble getting my hyperactive thyroid under control and that radio iodine was something we were going to discuss, and that even the possibility of booking an appointment do the dirty deed was, I knew, on the cards. But, well, I don’t have to tell you about the NHS. I was confident because I was well aware the appointment would be months away. In fact, let us be honest, it was more likely to be years away. In fact, let’s be even more honest, the chances of my still being alive when they offer me the treatment is very unlikely. So, I wander in, even more confidently after having just been weighed and told I have lost a few more pounds while on my diet. I felt surprisingly good after that. Even if they do say it will be twenty years before we can destroy your thyroid Mrs Renham Cook, I don’t think I will mind too much. I had lost more weight and better still my blood pressure was lower. Do I care about a thyroid problem?
‘So, ve vink ve coming to the radioiodine treatment. For your better health, you understand me, this is your only chance. It be danger for you othervise.’ My German/Polish/Slovakian/ Eastern European,(well she isn’t English, that much I can tell you) consultant tells me. I nod, not fully understanding whether the treatment is not good for my health or not having it is not good for my health. She pushes a form towards me.
‘You fill zis in please,’ she is beginning to sound more like the Gestapo with each passing minute.
I fill in the form and feel my heart beat a little faster. My god, surely they are not going to do it now. I mean, I have come alone. Doesn’t someone need to accompany me home? Surely there is a waiting list a thousand miles long sitting around somewhere of which to the bottom of, I should surely go.
‘So, ve now get you to see Joan and book you in for next monday, zis is good.’
Next Monday! The next Monday of this month! The next Monday of this year! The next Monday of my life in fact.
‘But, I can’t possibly,’ I splutter, ‘We are short-staffed at work.’
She looks unperturbed.
‘Zees appointments very hard to get. verk vill understand.’
Oh, she has much to learn.
Oh, my god. I am sent back to the waiting room where I quake whilst waiting to see Joan, who is very nice and explains everything in full, albeit it very quickly.
‘You swallow a capsule and then you are radioactive. All the radio iodine will go to your thyroid to destroy it but there will elements lingering in the body which will come out in your urine and sweat. Do not sleep with your husband for 5 days, take 5 days off work and do not get closer than 1 metre to others. After the 5th day you can be a bit more relaxed but still avoid pregnant woman and babies. We will see you in a week.’
I leave in a state of shock. For the next seven days I spend my time googling Radio iodine treatment and discussing it with my husband. By the time I go the following week we feel we have the whole thing sussed. He will sleep in another room. I have separated our towels and what not. I buy a new toothbrush on the way and wonder how it will feel being apart from my husband at night, already we have arranged to sit on separate couches. I am very nervous when I arrive at the hospital and yet all I am going to do is swallow a pill. I mean, let’s face it I am the worst hypochondriac in the world, second to Woody Allen and popping pills is a way of life for me. Ok, I don’t spend my life popping radioactive ones admittedly. But, trust me, Ozzy Ozbourne has nothing on me. I am taken into a small room and everything is read out to me and I am asked to sign a form to say I understand that I must legally carry a yellow card around with me stating I am radioactive and also wear a yellow wrist bracelet should I have an accident. This means the paramedics will be aware. I get more nervous as she clips the bracelet on. I suddenly feel like an alien. Will the paramedics walk away from my dying body when they see the bracelet? Will the bracelet hinder the saving of my life? What am I letting myself in for?
‘Ok, you can take the capsule.’ annouces Joan.
I am led silently to a table where a large vial sits waiting for me.Suddenly I feel like I have stepped into the ‘Frankenstein’ novel. I am like someone being taken to their execution.
‘Only you can do it,’ she prods.
Oh, I see. Only I take responsibility for radio activating myself. I suddenly feel like I am in a sci-fi movie and expect lots of bubbly froth to accompany my capsule. I lift the vial from its container and everyone jumps back. I hesitate and then lift it to my lips and in one movement the capsule is sliding down my throat.
‘Ok,’ they say ushering me out and standing ten miles from me. ‘You are radioactive now.’
I walk out of the building expecting everyone to look differently at me. Surely it shows on my face that I am radioactive, or maybe something shines about my head, you know like a halo. Well, I imagine it does that all the time anyway, with all the good works I do, but listen, I don’t want to brag.
I wait to feel different. I climb into my car and wait. It doesn’t start itself, so I turn the key in the ignition and wait for an electric shock or something. It doesn’t happen. I drive home, checking myself every few minutes for new symptoms, nothing happens. Well, this is a piece of cake, I tell myself. Now, let this be a warning to you. Never tell yourself something is a piece of cake. The next five days are awful. I cannot make Bendy (our cat) understand that I do still love him but I just can’t have him near me. The more I try to avoid him, the more he pushes himself onto me. I spend my time going ‘Shoo shoo’ Till, in the end he shoos away to the neighbour’s house. Andrew sits on another couch and avoids touching me and I begin to feel like a leper. I still feel the same. Nothing remarkable happens in the house and I feel almost disappointed. I think I had expected all kinds of amazing things to take place during those five days. The only remarkable thing that takes place is the staggering amount of washing I do. I phone Andrew on the intercom to say goodnight and ‘I love you’. I am beginning to understand what it feels like to be in a long distance relationship.
Then the five days are up. I didn’t conjure up strange men from another planet. I got a few odd looks when people saw my wrist band. Andrew joked it was like a new baby’s wrist band and I was a born again nutcase. So, I got through it. I now had to wait for the next stage. Blood tests in a few weeks and the likelihood that I would become under active. What they didn’t tell me was that it would be a bad idea to get a cold. What do I do? Yes, catch a cold. Two weeks on and I feel like I am being strangled on a daily basis. I phone the hospital and they pass the buck to my doctor, he listens and passes the buck back to them. Meanwhile, I am in agony. Ok, hypochondriac agony which is probably fifty per cent less than it sounds. A piece of cake? I couldn’t eat one if I tried. It seems a cold inflames the glands more. I mean, it can only happen to me.
So, they tell me to take plenty of pain killers (yes permission at last to take drugs) drink plenty of fluids and wait. Back to google to check they have got it right this time.