As I get needled up for my chemotherapy treatment I remind my attentive nurse that I’m due my dreaded, and rather painful “B52 jab”.
It’s given every nine weeks and it never fails to disappoint - delivering a long slow pain deep into the muscle tissue. It gives me a vital boost to a much-weakened immune system.
With a big smile my nurse corrects me: “It’s actually B12 jab… a B52 sounds like some sort of fancy boozy cocktail,” she laughs.
I tell her it’s just my wee joke and that B52 is a huge US bomber aircraft developed in the 1950s and renowned for delivering a most powerful punch when in military use.
The age difference between me and my nurse is significant – perhaps that’s why she thought “cocktail” and I thought “World War II bomber”!
When I was her age in the bars of Glasgow and Ayrshire a “cocktail” was likely to be a vodka in a short glass, one have melted ice cube and a splash of warm diluting orange juice from an open bottle on the bar top.
Now it’s a cocktail of drugs being pumped into me and, as it flows, the chatter moves on to covid vaccinations.
The nurses have already had their first dose – and the second jab will be delayed for some weeks.
But there’s no moans about the delay.
“We’ve got a high level of protection from the first vaccination – up to 90 per cent I’ve been told,” one nurse tells the ward.
Another adds: “We get tested twice a week at work and operate to strict protocols – actually I’d rather see my patients get it before me. They are much more vulnerable”.
The patients disagree – “we are isolating and you are more exposed so should be first.”
We’re seeing things from a different perspective but we are not arguing.
It’s the polar opposite of what happens on social media where we’re quick to judge, slow to compromise and immovable in our opinions. My staple diet of face-to-face chat since March last year has been with my wife Laura and our boxer dog Mishka.
Isn’t it strange that something once so terrifying as a chemotherapy ward can become such uplifting and convivial addition to my life.
As patients leave they say “cheerio” with a smile and a small wave and everyone replies “see you next time”.
Talk of the “B52 cocktail” reminds me of that 1980s US comedy Cheers where a group of people from different paths of life meet in a Boston Bar.
The theme tune lyrics include:
“Be glad there's one place in the world
Where everybody knows your name
And they're always glad you came…”
Ally McLaws is a journalist and former Director of Communications with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
He newspaper column “Living with cancer in a pandemic” is published weekly in The Herald on Sunday. Back copies of his columns can be read on his website (under the charity section) at www.mclawsconsultancy.com
Follow Ally on Twitter @allymclaws
You can also read Ally's Beatson blog on Living with cancer in a pandemic, here