The paths of Lindsay and I didn’t cross until I was well into my 30s when she was recruited to work for me. Lindsay was a highly competent secretary and I can say hand on heart that she was one of the best colleagues I’ve ever had. Lindsay was 24 when she joined the company which employed a lot of young people who spent lots of time socialising. Like any healthy young person Lindsay loved having fun and she developed lots of close friendships within the office.
I can remember thinking what a lovely person she was and also envying her beauty and youth. It is now horrifying for me to think that by the tender age of 25, cancer was probably already growing inside her and she was actually close to the final scenes of her own brutally short 3rd Act. Furthermore, I could never imagine that when I left the company 18 months later, it would be the final time I would see Lindsay in this lifetime.
Lindsay was the last person I saw at the company when I left to go freelance as she kindly helped me downstairs with my archive boxes and hugged me goodbye in reception. The next few months were extremely busy, so when she asked me to go for a drink, I simply didn’t have time to go up to London and so more months elapsed. I then sent her a text to ask her if she wanted to meet up in late autumn and there was no answer. I found this quite strange because Lindsay was a hyper-efficient person in all areas of life. Anyway, I left it for a while and texted her again and I can recall this hideous memory when I received a return message saying that she was suffering from breast cancer.
I could hardly catch my breath as my heart began pounding with shock. Lindsay then explained that she’d gone to the Doctor several months before and no action had been taken as she was considered too young to have cancer, but I must say that she was very philosophical over this injustice and I was privately appalled at the danger in which she had been placed by the NHS.
I am not naïve about cancer as my Father died of it in my early teens, but for some reason I had absolutely no doubt that Lindsay would beat it hands down. And in true Lindsay-style, she fought the disease with all her courage, determination and good humour, whilst spending much of her time fundraising for various breast cancer charities by doing half marathons and the like. However, I guess because Lindsay was so young and so fit, the hideous journey of the big C took just over 1 year to kill her and one sunny March morning, I opened my emails and received the dreadful news that she was dead. I am grateful to the sender who was an ex-colleague, as I hadn’t noticed Lindsay’s profile disappear from FB earlier in the week.
What is ironic about Lindsay’s fate is that she always protected other people from injustices and had no problem addressing issues of fairness in life in general. However, Lindsay suffered the biggest injustice of all when she was denied a test for a breast lump due to the vicious sifting that GPs are forced to do. And one of the most appalling aspects of this tragedy is that it isn’t that uncommon – I know of a number of similar stories, as I guess many of the readers of this blog will too. It makes me very angry that we are supposedly living in a civilised society and yet the NHS is virtually running an invisible concentration camp of sorts. In fact, it beggars belief that many MPs are focusing their energies on plans for flimsy, foreign medical side-lines in aid of generating a bit of cash for the NHS, rather than making a determined attempt to overhaul the NHS systems, so we can prioritise services and allocate costs in a fair and reasonable way, rather than playing Monopoly with people’s lives. I mean let’s face it, if you’re denied a test for a breast lump, you may just as well bloody run out on the M3 into the London-bound fast lane at 0700 hours on a Monday morning at Farnborough – it would probably be safer.
Dr Phillip Lee MP appears to be one of the only people in this country who is truly driven to make the required changes to the NHS. This is a big job but I have no doubt it will get done soon because building a whole network of new hospitals is really the only way to ensure that the required economies of scale are achieved to save the NHS and create a brand new healthcare ‘map’ over which a state-of-the-art financial and information system can be overlaid. And I am certain he will also achieve the successful implementation of a patient statement system very soon. I also believe that if all this had been in operation when Lindsay visited her GP in the first instance, then there is a good chance she would still be alive because such a system would not allow such high risk patients to slip through the net – Lindsay would have either received her test via the NHS, or at the very least, Dr Lee would have built a facility in the area where she could have been tested for a nominal fee and been strongly urged by her GP to attend. Either way, this preposterous and horrific sifting would be eliminated from the system, along with the grossly unfair weight of responsibility GPs are expected to bear. Is it any wonder there is a high suicide rate in the medical profession when Doctors have to shoulder this terrible burden of responsibility which is generated by sheer Parliamentary indolence?
Watching Lindsay’s elderly and frail Grandparents quietly sobbing into their hankies in the front row of the crematorium was one of the most appalling and distressing things I’ve ever seen in my life, however it made me very determined to fulfil Lindsay’s final wish that she isn’t forgotten and in her memory, I will continue to fight these system injustices which I believe sent her to her death.