Life is full of risks, and we constantly balance the risk of undertaking, saying or even avoiding something against the benefits as we get through every day. A lot of the time we do it without thinking, particularly for the little, everyday moments such as walking down the stairs – where clearly the benefit of getting downstairs far outweighs the risk of falling down them.
When the risk is a bit higher, such as when we contemplate eating some food that’s just past its Best Before date, or we’re considering crossing a busy road, we’re a bit more aware of the dangers we might face, but most of the processing goes on subconsciously and we go ahead – or not – without too much thought.
Of course, there are moments when we probably ought to think about the risks involved, but fail to do so. The chap in the queue behind me who said “So, have you got cancer or something?” should probably have weighed up the chances of my replying positively before he asked, but we’re all guilty of such moments, whether it’s in the telling of a bad joke that doesn’t go down well, or trying a quick fix for some damaged item without thinking about how we might make it worse.
Mariacristina will tell you that I’m clumsy, and I do have a habit of picking up knocks while undertaking the simplest everyday tasks. Unfortunately it seems to have been contagious, as she has become clumsier since living with me, although there is some small comfort in being able to remind her of her moments when she complains about mine. Often with me it’s the result of failing to think first, when a moment’s consideration would have worked out things were going to end badly, but I like to think it’s usually just bad luck.
Balancing risk and quality of life is at the heart of my treatment, and explains why I have been confined to my room for seven or eight weeks. With no neutrophils and therefore a very compromised immune system, it would have been crazy to have me living my normal life, constantly exposed to germs, so it made sense to keep me here on the Ruth Myles ward, however boring that may be. There were various niggles they needed to keep an eye on, too, so it wasn’t worth the risk of their getting worse just to give me a break from the hospital.
But now I’m relatively stable, feeling well and in danger of going stir-crazy, the doctors have decided that despite my continuing lack of neutrophils, the balance has tipped in favour of quality of life for the next couple of days. I’m still very much at risk of germs, but I’ll be staying at home until Thursday, when I’ll head up to Hampstead for the screening tests prior to my chosen treatment path. It’s a risk to go home, but I’m close to St George’s, and I convinced them that I’m sensible enough to come straight back in if I feel at all unwell, so in this case it’s an acceptable risk.
The next phase in my effort to get into remission is now planned, but I won’t bore you with the details before I know for sure that I’m suitable for this particular treatment. Suffice to say that the needle of risk is likely to point towards outpatient care, which presents a few logistical issues (what with Hampstead being a fair bit farther away than Tooting), but should allow me to be at home for Christmas – hurrah!
Life’s full of risks, and you can’t live it fully by always falling back to the safest option. Leukaemia has pushed up a number of those risks, and my treatment involves a constant effort to balance the risks of different options, but I’m glad the doctors have remembered another vital factor, too: quality of life.
In short: I’M GOING HOME!