Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Three Things

1) A couple of weeks ago, I purchased some beautiful Christmas cards, in two different varieties. They are sparkling and pretty and very festive. I secreted them high up in the cupboard where I keep cards, ribbons and wrapping paper - safely away from peanut-buttery fingers and spilled cups of milk and cut-cutting scissors that cut my magazines I haven't even read yet. So there they sat, forgotten, but pristine, until today, when I went looking for a special card I'd put away to send to a friend.

Dazzle! dazzle! winked the cards. I smiled, and lifted them out in their two packs, admiring them all over again. I congratulated myself on my wise purchase, and sighed contentedly, pleased to think I had the Christmas card thing all sewn up. I stood there beaming, until a nasty niggly thought intruded upon my happiness, twisted and turned, then swelled and balloooned, until it exploded in my head like an egg in a microwave and I realised drat blast and bother! I still have to write on these things!

I know. You'd have thought that was obvious.


2) At work yesterday, I saw a darling old lady called Mrs B. She is warm, funny, anxious, hopeful and sad in turns. Her husband died earlier this year, and she misses him very much.

One of the things I like best about Mrs B is her humour. Her attitude to life could be summed up in the way she approaches her ailments: from time to time she tells me about a particular symptom, but then follows up with the disclaimer "I suppose it's nothing more than galloping old age!". Sometimes, I am able to suggest a remedy, while other times I am only able to suggest a way of easing her symptoms, but either way, Mrs B's laughter in the face of her grief and her health problems is so inspiring. 'Galloping old age' may test her endurance, but it has not dimmed her light.


3) Chin hair. (ah yes, stop reading now if you are squeamish about hair) We all have it, some more than others. Mostly males have more, females have less (see what I learnt at medical school? Incredible.). But somewhere around the age of 30, or was it 35? - my soft blond tiny chin hairs began to mutate, grew subtly longer, and then I grew a couple of strange wiry ones, which I pluck assiduously. That's all OK - I've discussed this with friends and they have a few chin hair issues, too - it's no biggie. Except something very worrying has happened now...... my prize chin hair has disappeared!!

I've been plucking the stubbly little sucker out every two or three weeks for months, and then out of the blue ...... nothing. No sign of it. No telltale roughness under the skin. No bump. No prickle poking through. Zip. Zero. Nothing for a few months now.

I'm worried it is growing darker, thicker, longer, hidden under the skin. I'm frightened that one day it will suddenly unfurl, in a great wave of horrendous hirsuite hairiness, rolling out and falling in a curling wave to my feet. I might even be in the middle of a consultation. Its extreme wiriness could knock the patient out of their chair; the hair might unroll itself into the patients nose while I'm examining their throat. This could be a disaster of momentous proportions.

Where's my chin hair?

I just want to know that it's safe to go out.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Something Cheery (for Isabelle!)

Here is what I learnt this week : A little kindness goes such a very long way.

There is a girl in my son's class called 'Daisy'. Daisy has an intellectual impairment, and struggles to write her name, to maintain attention, and to follow instructions. Daisy's mother, 'Jenny', often arrives a little late for school, with her baby strapped to her chest, her 3-year-old trailing by her side, and Daisy chatting loudly as she meanders into the classroom. Jenny always appears calm despite the chaos, has a smile for everyone, and I have never heard her lose her temper with Daisy. Jenny seems to have it all together, and speaks confidently to the teacher when she needs to discuss Daisy's progress. I can be a bit shy initially, and I am also often racing off to work in the mornings, so I have only spoken to Jenny a handful of times this year. I have enjoyed chatting to her, though, about school news, Daisy, or life in general.

Imagine my surprise to hear, from another doctor where I work (who sees Jenny and Daisy as her patients), that our conversations had meant a great deal to Jenny. Jenny told this doctor that many of the other mothers didn't speak to her, and that whenever Daisy 'acted up', Jenny felt embarrassed, and worried what those other mothers were thinking. The 6 or 7 conversations we'd shared, to Jenny, were worthy of mention because of how much better they made her feel. Astounding!

I was glad to have made a difference in Jenny's life, but at the same time I wished I'd started chatting to Jenny earlier in the school year, wished I'd spoken to her more often, wished I'd thought more about what it must be like for her dealing with the school community. I felt guilty that I'd done the bare minimum; I felt undeserving of her appreciation. The fact that a few conversations were so important to Jenny tells me she is not receiving the support she deserves.
However, this post is not about guilt, because whilst I regret not doing more for Jenny, I am kind enough to myself to know that I cannot be everything to everyone, can't save the world, can't be some sort of superwoman. If I had realised, I would have been more attentive to Jenny, but I didn't know.

What I do know is that I will go on from here trying to remember that everyone, for whatever their own reasons, and however outwardly poised they may appear, may be 'Jenny' - in need of conversation, a smile, a shared laugh. I'll keep in mind that a little kindness goes such a very long way.