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Thursday, 1 August 2013


I am in Gloucester at the moment to attend the 286th Three Choirs Festival in the cathedral, and other venues in the city.  I came three years ago when it was last in Gloucester and it is something that has stayed with me; the sound of instruments and voices reverberating in the cathedral which is one of my favourite places.  I attended Evensong yesterday which was broadcast live on Radio 3 (so some of you may be able to get it on the BBC iPlayer if you are interested), but as always what really came to my mind was the sound, the use of the acoustic and the fact that this space has been used for worship for at least 900 years.  It is also the way that hearing something 'live' really makes you listen to what you are hearing, as well as finding new things that you hadn't noticed before.  When sound is around you, you have to follow it and locate it.  On the radio/CD player/MP3 it is just there in your ear and the fact that you don't have to locate it in the same way means that you don't listen to it with the same sort of concentration.

I was reading a blog earlier this morning which is also about listening  How many of us feel that doctors just don't listen?  That they have made a diagnosis almost before you have walked in the room and said a word?  How many of us actually think they are even listening to what we have to say? 

The medical profession doesn't feel the need to listen to the patient because they have all the answers already, and they have a medical degree ... true, but you don't happen to inhabit my body, have my symptoms or know how I am feeling.  If various doctors had listened to me, looked at their own test results and ignored the statistics which said I was too young to have breast cancer I may not now have Stage IV, Metastatic Breast Cancer.  Of course I understand that I may still have had a progression to Stage IV, but when health car professionals are constantly going on about early detection saving lives ... I find it a bit hard to take.  After all they didn't listen to me.

At the moment the NHS has a campaign about lung cancer.  If you have had a cough for more than three weeks go and see your doctor and get it checked out.  Chances are it is not lung cancer, but if it is then getting it early makes it more treatable.  Wonderful.  But I have a friend who has had a cough for 18 months, has mentioned it to her doctor and nothing has been done.  Well, or course, she doesn't smoke so maybe that is what rules out the possibility of lung cancer because statistics say ...

I am not a statistic on a piece of paper, I am a statistic that is moving and breathing and you need to listen to me to locate my problem.  I am not the skeleton hanging in the medical school classroom, and I am not a list of symptoms given in a certain order of 'importance' as dictated by statistics.

I am fully aware that my cancer is incurable.  I am fully aware that there may be nothing you can do about some symptoms.  I just want to feel that you have listened to me, acted on what I have said, and then told me the truth of the situation.  If there is nothing you can do, then so be it, but my experience with the medical profession has left me feeling that they will only do something when it is too late because you don't present with the top 3 symptoms as statistically you are supposed to.  So do me a favour doc and just listen.

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