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"Cancer hotline"

About: Flinders Medical Centre / Cancer Clinic

(as the patient),

Recently, I was feeling very unwell. I have small cell lung cancer and have had two three-day chemotherapy sessions, last one 2 weeks ago, the next one in a week or so. I currently, as at this minute, have developed a cough which I had before but it had improved, now is going downhill somewhat, have tightness in my throat, have discomfort, not exactly pain, in my chest and extending a little, slight headache and totally exhausted/fatigued, call it what you will.

I was going to work the day before but could not get out of bed, I was just far too exhausted and then slept all day basically, although never feeling rested, and worried about the "pain" "discomfort" in my chest, lungs, throat etc.

One of my conditions is that the 6cm mass on my lung is trapping the main artery to my heart and it sort of feels like there is something going on with that. I thought I would just put up with it thinking this is my lot in what is left of my life, but everything I read - given to me by FMC to ensure I pay attention - tells me to call the hotline if I have any symptoms to mention. So I thought I should do so - the first time I have called the number of course. So, I rang.

A staff member answered, I have no idea of their credentials and didn't catch their name of course. I told them the problems/symptoms, they seemed totally disinterested. There is, frankly, in my opinion, no other way to put it. It seemed if I didn't have a roaring temperature, that was pretty much the end of the story.

The staff member suggested I go to my GP or "a GP" and have said GP listen to my chest and give me antibiotics if GP 'thought' I have an infection. I have no doubt I do not have an infection. When I said I had no confidence that a random GP or indeed my GP would be able to diagnose anything in this situation, the aforementioned staff member said that it was up to me if I choose the alternative which is to go to the Emergency Department, but warned me that I was in for a long wait.

When I suggested I use my blood test form and go to SA Pathology they said I could do that, but best to wait until closer to my chemotherapy appointment. Based on our conversation, I feel I can safely say this staff member was missing the whole point of my phone call and certainly missing the point that I would not have rung unless I thought it was essential. And so I gave up.

I went back to bed for another five hours. My symptoms persist - indeed they are getting worse as I type. I have nowhere else to turn, so I will simply wait and hope and perhaps tell my Cancer Specialist my story at my next appointment, assuming I am still around by then.

I think, but am not positive, that my blood test form is perpetual, I don't know. Either way, the staff member certainly put me off doing anything. Is this why there is a hotline? Seems like a very cold line to me.  

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