I'm going to talk about blood – not the messy, congealed kind but the type stashed away neatly in hospital blood banks.
Before I get going, I should explain that what happened to me was an extremely rare side-effect of the surgery to remove my tumour and not to be feared if you have to undergo the same. Indeed, even when it does occur, the results are not always so dramatic – but then, I'll do anything for a good story.
|Barbamama - happy to be alive!|
So, after my initial surgery I suffered a burst artery which lost me lots of blood and after two transfusions and the injection of so much saline fluid I looked like Barbamama, followed by three more pints of blood in the emergency surgery which followed, I emerged happy to be here to tell the tale and oh so grateful that somebody, or some people, of my blood group, happened to give blood recently.
Thanks to a poignant donor campaign when I was a student, I'd been giving blood ever since. Every four months I'd pop along to my local mobile centre, chat with the nurses, eat all their biscuits and toddle along home feeling oh, so virtuous. For anyone who hasn't given blood or received it before, I should say that a large chunk of the 30-45 minute process is taken up with screening to limit the risk of disease spreading through your blood to a patient and the blood is rigorously checked for infection after you've given it.
When I woke up alive and well and more than a little proud of the bruise from shoulder to hip and the marvelling from staff at just how much blood I'd received for one so small, I was relieved that I'd given blood in the past. Who'd have thought that one day it would be who me who needed it?
I knew that I wouldn't be allowed to give blood anymore* and consoled myself with the fact that at least I'd given blood for the past twenty years. And then I worked it out. Four monthly giving is the maximum allowed for women (three monthly for men) so that the donor has ample time in between to build their blood supplies back up to normal levels. So it would have taken one person twenty months of giving just to provide the amount I needed to be sitting up again. On that basis, the potential amount of people I could have helped over my entire adulthood was a paltry 12. Twelve! I was shocked.
Now, I know not everybody is going to need five pints but nonetheless, how much blood would we need in the banks if we had a natural disaster or an epidemic? Could there ever be a situation where I could have been lying there with the staff whispering, 'Hang on in there Mrs Buxton, we're just waiting for your blood to arrive from Newcastle, Edinburgh, John o' Groats…'?
There is a bright side to having cancer and that is that everyone wants to help. It's the loveliness of the human spirit; everyone wants to make it right and if they can't do that, they want to make it easier or more comfortable. Is this a good place to thank everyone for the cards, messages, flowers, chocolates, candles, moisturiser, fluffy socks and fleecy cardigans, poignant charms and pieces of jewellery, books, DVDs, writing retreats (oh yes!), magazines, cleaning, ironing, notebooks (you know how much I love my notebooks), offers of shopping, lifts, meals for my children, cake, bags of healthy cancer-fighting eating and meals-on-wheels on my doorstep and hugs and positive vibes? You're all sent from God.
But, back to blood. I've realised that there is another way that people can directly help and that is this. If you can, please would you give blood? Only 4% of the population do, I've discovered. And please, tell your friends and family. You'll be helping me because I'm not allowed to give blood anymore and you'll be helping to save lives. It's that simple. Click Here to find out more and your closest place to give.
And to all of you who do regularly give blood, thank you from all of us.
*Incidentally, I've also had to take myself off the Anthony Nolan Trust donor (stem cells) list which helps people with blood cancers such as leukaemia. Would you take my place on the list? Click Here to find out more J