Christmas Eve. We are waiting in the Edward Jenner Clinic at 'The Royal', a hospital in Gloucester. Something a little unusual had turned up in a recent blood sample, and I'm here to 'rule out' cancer. "Bring a family member." The letter from the clinic had advised.
It's my back. Doctor Bray had said "Come and see me again if symptoms persist, "and they had, so I did, and here I am: most unexpectedly. Putting a very brave face on it.
"Does the micro-globulin go in a gold-top phial?" My phlebotomist asked her colleague. She searched for her little 'which top,do you use' book " Yes, it does, " she confirmed. My head's in a whirl. "Why micro-globulin?"
"Why doesn't she know?"
You read dreadful things about the National Health Service. But it was amazing over my back. Here I am, just a few days after the doctor ordered the tests, having waited only a few minutes, trying to work out the gold-topped phial thing.
The results would be available to the consultant in a less than an hour. Not too long to wait. "Go and have a coffee!"
Costa Coffee have the franchise, and it's as good as any. Five minutes after being served, the clinic Receptionist fetched me. "Mr Staid will see you now ... " ( Senior doctors in the UK are never called 'doctor'. Funny that.) "Take your coffee."
Mr Staid was relaxed and kind. He made eye contact and he smiled. I knew everything was going to be OK. "About 1 in 25 older people tested have this anomaly. It's slightly- raised immune activity, it's nothing serious. Let's have a closer look at your back."
My back responded magnificently. Just a twinge. No bumps or swelling in the lymph glands. No weight loss, no sleepless nights ... I'm beginning to feel a bit of a fraud.
"Are you claustrophobic?" I'm startled. Does that come with having a bad back? "No ... " (puzzled). "Good." Then I'll order you an MRI scan. It's thirty minutes in a tube."
Wow! I have watched every episode of House and always wanted an MRI Scan. The TVs ones don't seem to last 30 minutes, though. "We'll find out what's going on!"
Cancer, however, has been ruled out. I am enormously relieved. I didn't know how anxious I'd been until it lifted away. I wanted to sing and ... Back permitting ... Do a jig.
What a gift.