Sunday, February 25, 2024
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Four weeks to write a letter? Thanks, doc


THIS is probably the hardest ‘cancer valedictory’ piece I’ll ever write.

It’s this bloody keyboard! I don’t relish typing into an iPhone at the best of times but I have just had a round of Folfox chemotherapy and I’ve lost all hand-eye co-ordination.

It’s mostly the hands that are letting the side down but I can’t really blame them. This particular chemotherapy cocktail affects the nerves in your fingers and cold weather puts them further into a palsy.

Thanks to what my contact at St Christopher’s Hospice calls my ‘complicated medical history’, I’m constantly on the move and cursing at the glowing screen in my palm.

I fall between many stools in the NHS and on the way down I’m grateful to them all.

The Royal Marsden in Sutton treats me for bowel cancer, I see the world’s top dermatologist in Croydon for pyoderma gangrenosum, the lovely Dr Richie at Purley War Memorial is saving me from death by DVT and I get pain control and CBT from the hospice in Sydenham. Then there’s my fantastic GP and Rakesh the pharmacist at Boots. All of whom need to be seen regularly.

I won’t mention the clinics that mis-diagnosed me and put compression on my open wounds, causing months of agony.

Pin-balling around between these pain points can be stressful. It’s hard to juggle my attempts to work with all the new events that have been thrust on me. Since I got ill I’ve also been forced to find a new home, plan a divorce and re-write my will!

It’s all pretty difficult to administer on the move, especially if your fingers are paralysed.

Which is why I’m so indebted to reader Remy Nagelmaeker, who sent me these fantastic Touchscreen Gloves.

These are lined with polar fleece as part of a triple-layer of insulation and have silicone grip bits on the finger tips that are perfect for touching a screen.

These are the only medical aids that haven’t made me feel like I’m Herman Munster.

Actually, thanks to Remy’s kind gesture, this piece was less hard to write than I thought.


I am massively indebted to the NHS but I do worry when I hear it’s ‘the envy of the world’. That way arrogance lies and soon you may see the symptoms of IDS – Indifferent Doctor Syndrome.

There are times when you will be totally reliant on Doctor W, who treats one fatal condition, to write a letter to Doctor A, who specialises in the other, in order to approve the use of steroids that could rescue you from excruciating pain.

Amazingly, in those cases, it can take four weeks for a doctor to write a letter. Four bloody weeks! That must have been a hard letter to write.


The response of readers to my ‘struggles’ has been amazing and it makes a huge difference, so thank you to everyone who has written. I will get round to replying.

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Nick Booth
Nick Booth
Nick Booth is a freelance writer.

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