Right before the onset of lockdown, Peter recalls experiencing “tremendous backache” so made an appointment to see an osteopath. He became suspicious at Peter’s symptoms, so advised him to see the doctor.
Peter explains: “I remember I had to write down what I was experiencing because face-to-face appointments had been halted; they got back to me straightaway and requested a blood test. Two days later, I had a phone call from a GP who had seen the test result. Consequently, I saw the oncologist very quickly, within a matter of three days.”
He was then diagnosed with early-stage multiple myeloma. “After the initial regime of chemotherapy and one lot of radiotherapy on my vertebrae, things were looking more positive. I was given 2-10 years for remission, but after two years being in remission, the cancer is now back.”
He continues: “I can’t clearly remember when I first heard about the unit, but what I do know is that for the first two months of treatment I had to be in the hospital unit as they need to closely monitor me. The first time I went, I had to wait three hours afterwards to see whether I had tolerated the chemo OK, then the second time this was reduced to two hours and by the third time, it was one hour. Eventually, they gave me the green light to receive treatment on the unit and I’ve been on there ever since.”
While Peter admits that the 16-mile journey to hospital did not take too long, the weekly two-kilometre trip to the unit he now undertakes instead has made life easier, especially as he “usually walks”, serving as a boost to both his physical and mental wellbeing.
His current treatment involves two injections to his stomach, so his time on the unit is kept to a minimum. When he initially visited the unit, he was having chemo infusions which took around 20 minutes, which in his own words, “still took less time than the journey to the hospital.”
He feels that the environment on the unit couldn’t be more opposite to his experience of attending hospital: “It feels more friendly on the unit; often at the hospital you’ve got 25 patients awaiting chemo and some of them just sort of sit there in a world of their own and don’t converse. Everyone tends to keep themselves to themselves because it’s often quite an intimidating place, I suppose.
“The nurses on the unit are all regulars so we get to know each other quite well, which is lovely. I’ve been widowed for 18 years, so during lockdown, they were usually they only people I saw.”
He is thankful he isn’t reliant on anyone and values his independence, but for some patients he realises it is a different story: “For those who can’t drive and who are dependent on others, it is much easier to get their neighbour to drive the two or three miles to the clinic [unit] than all the way up to the hospital, which is taking half a day out of somebody’s life. I think this is a major advantage for a lot of people, particularly as time is so precious.”