The Pearl Giver Ch1
By lisa h
I first saw Amy as she danced her way out of Bay 2 on the oncology day ward at Clatterbridge Hospital. She was hooked up to her chemo infusion and waltzing with her IV trolley. My first thought was I’d seen a little Tinkerbell, tiny but with a huge smile that I clocked the moment she came into view. I was in the chair in the corner of Bay 5 getting my PICC line dressings changed by my usual nurse, Teresa. Amy made eye contact and then made a beeline down the hall towards me.
“Do you mind if I chat with you?” she asked as she came into the bay.
I glanced at Teresa, who shrugged and grinned in a sneaky, knowing way, and I knew I had to say yes.
“Here, sit before you fall over.” Teresa pulled her wheelie chair away from her computer station and pushed it up besides Amy.
“I don’t need to sit, I need to dance.” She did a twirl. “And sing.” Amy glanced at the rest of the patients on the bay. Out of the five, four were watching her with vaguely amused expressions. “Like my hair style? Decided I’d go extreme.” She rubbed her shiny bald scalp, and then plonked herself down in Teresa’s chair.
“What can I do for you?” I asked.
“I’m Amy. We haven’t met before.”
I couldn’t help but smile. She was feel-good infectious. I moved my arm up as Teresa rubbed the alcohol cleaner over my skin.
“I’m Rachel. And I’m surprised we’ve not run into each other before. I virtually live here.”
“Me too, what are your days?”
“Monday PICC, Tuesday chemo, Thursday bottle disconnect.”
Amy frowned for a moment then her expression turned back to that everlasting-smile. “Oh, you’re talking about one of those bottle thingies you go home with. I haven’t had one of those. Don’t get them for brain tumours. What’s yours?”
“Bowel cancer.” I shifted my arm again to make it easier for Teresa to stick the first dressing on.
“You’re a bit young for that. In the family?”
She didn’t take prisoners with the questions, that was for sure, but she was so sweet in the way she asked, I couldn’t take offence. Besides, swapping cancer stories was what we had here, we were all at it.
“Nope, I am patient zero.”
Amy let out a laugh. “Patient zero, I like that.” She reached over and placed her hand over mine for a moment. A shadow seemed to pass over her eyes for the briefest of seconds before turning bright again. “I’m not normally here on a Monday. My day was always Friday. Must be why we haven’t run into each other before. But my doc changed days for her surgeries, and my chemo day changed to fit in.”
I nodded. “I used to be chemo on a Thursday for the same reason.”
It seemed as if Amy was no longer interested in that avenue of conversation. “You’re quite incredible, you know.”
I gave her a kind of sideways glance. “What do you mean?”
“You’re so at peace. So many people here are screaming inside. Sometimes they scream for real as well. So loud the neighbours call for the police. But you, you’re cool as a cucumber.”
Teresa gave me a look that told me to roll with it. I’d known a couple of brain tumour patients, and they always ended up a little on the odd side. Nature of the game of that particular branch of the disease. I was happy to cater to her unusual manner. Besides, she was completely endearing.
She reached forward and put her hand over mine a second time. “I’ve not come across someone as at peace with their diagnosis as you. It’s fantastic.” Amy sat back and rubbed her forehead. “These bloody headaches are going to be the death of me.” She giggled. “That’s if the cancer doesn’t get me first.”
“You appear to be coping quite well yourself.”
“Right ladies, I’m all done here.” Teresa had finished, updated my red book and booked me in for more normal time in a week while I marvelled over the miniature miracle ball of positivity that was Amy. A weary look had come over my new friend. “Have a good week,” Teresa said as she handed over the PICC log book.
“You too, Teresa. Thanks for doing a lovely job as always.” I gathered my things. “Want some help back to your bay?” I said to Amy.
“Oh, yes, I’d like that.” She’d come over grey and tired, yet somehow, those pale green eyes of hers still sparkled.
I grabbed her IV trolley with one hand and offered my other for her to grab onto. She rested her fingers gently in the crook of my arm and we made our way back to Bay 2.
“Normally I have something to tell a person. Something that can help them, but you are doing so well…”
“I do my best. Got a good family behind me.” I led her into the bay and up to the only empty seat. With her trolley pushed into place and plugged back in I noticed the empty visitor chair.
“Family are so important, don’t you think?” Amy sat in the chair and rested her head back.
“Have you got someone with you?”
Amy waved a hand vaguely. “Not today. I don’t need anyone, I’ve got everyone here.”
“Do you want me to stay? I’m in no rush.” It was odd considering sitting in the basic chair provided for the accompanying person. I’d never been in the position of being the companion. I was always in the big comfortable chair as I got my meds.
“Oh, that would be so sweet of you. I’d love it if you stayed.” Amy closed her eyes, and I thought she was going to drift off, but then her eyes sprung open again as I sat down opposite. “I know it, I’ve got it! It’s the lottery.”
I had no idea what Amy was on about.
“You get scratch cards, don’t you.” She wasn’t asking she was telling me. “And your husband does the lottery every week.”
“Yes…” I wondered where she was going with this.
“You are convinced you’ll win big one day. In fact, you’re subscribed to one as well, aren’t you? One of those internet lotteries. I bet if you add it all up, between you you’re blowing fifty quid a month on it. No, definitely more.”
How she knew any of this was beyond me, so I kept quiet and decided to see where she was going with these thoughts.
“Well I know a secret.” She tapped the side of her nose. “I know when you’ll win big.”
Now I was listening. “I’m going to win?”
“Nope. Never. It’s a lost cause. Put the money aside each time you get the urge to play and go on a nice holiday. I think your son wants to go back to Centre Parcs. You’ll need to save for that, bloody expensive place.”
And that was it. Amy closed her eyes and within seconds was snoring softly.