…it’s very efficient and you’re often seen straightaway
62-year-old Richard was diagnosed with myeloma in early 2014. He explains: “I’d been having quite a problem before that with back pain, and I thought I was just a bloke with a bad back. I went to the doctors, and I had had perhaps some early warning symptoms, but I didn’t really follow that up. But it turned out this cancer had been eating away at my spine.”
His diagnosis occurred in a “quite catastrophic way”. He was away running a training course and his back pain had worsened considerably. One lunchtime he lay down to do some stretches in an attempt to ease things, but he couldn’t get back up again. “I was sort of flat packed off to Ipswich hospital which was fortunately a regional centre of excellence in spinal surgery. They were able to repair my spine using vertebroplasty.”
After a few weeks, he was transported back nearer home to Yorkshire to start cancer treatment. His initial treatment involved a clinical trial at Bradford, before being moved to Airedale for chemo.
“I’ve been through quite a lot of treatment for myeloma over the years, lots of different chemotherapy regimes, and a couple of stem cell transplants in Leeds. But the nature of myeloma is it’s a sort of remitting, relapsing type disease, so you’re on chemo until it stops working, then they try something else.” It was around four years ago, when the mobile cancer care unit was first delivered to the Airedale hospital site, that Richard was able to continue his chemo treatment on there.
He says: “I really like it for a number of reasons. Firstly, you’re not getting many people being treated at a time, so it’s very efficient and you’re often seen straightaway. If you’re going to the hospital, they’re very busy. There are loads of people and you can be sometimes waiting around for hours.
Secondly, you get to know the unit staff and they seem less stressed, and as a patient you’re getting a less stressed experience.
He continues: “Another major advantage for me was having access to the unit through the pandemic as it limited the risk of infection and meant less exposure to far fewer people. We really valued that through COVID because the chemo regime I was on at that time really messed up my immune system – I was very susceptible to catching anything.”
Richard also cites the reduction in travel and waiting time a huge benefit to his lifestyle. He visits the unit every Tuesday, based at Morrison’s car park in Skipton, six miles away from home. The hospital is a 30-mile round trip, where he says parking is a “nightmare” as well as expensive: “Having free car parking at Morrison’s is great and much more convenient.” As he’s currently not driving, it enables his wife to drop him off and go shopping before collecting him.
His current chemo regime consists of oral medication and a subcutaneous injection, with an infusion once every six weeks. Even though the infusion takes longer, around an hour and a half, the alternative would often mean using up the best part of a day to go to hospital “because of the waiting around.”
This extra time enables him to focus more on his own tech training course business, which he has run with his wife for the past 30 years from home.
“After I was diagnosed, we had to change the business model. Instead of me travelling around the planet delivering training courses as I used to, we now just focus on the course design and the development. I usually just head back to work when I’ve finished my weekly treatment. It’s important to have that routine, and the unit has gifted me with minimum disruption and stress.”