Annie Morris: A veil of silence keeping us from knowing truth

Annie Morris' dad and his dog Molly (in sidecar) on a motorbike adventure last year.
I woke up yesterday to find that one of the dogs had exploded. Volcanic like eruptions were scattered all over the wall and floor. The dog in question, Honey, is tiny and how she was able to produce so much diahorrea is beyond me. Bleach, a mop, bucket and a Yankee candle later, I soon had the place clean and fresh again as Honey slept through it all in her basket.

I woke up yesterday to find that one of the dogs had exploded. Volcanic like eruptions were scattered all over the wall and floor. The dog in question, Honey, is tiny and how she was able to produce so much diahorrea is beyond me. Bleach, a mop, bucket and a Yankee candle later, I soon had the place clean and fresh again as Honey slept through it all in her basket.

Next, a phone call to the vet. Her likely diagnosis was ‘Bloody dog’. You can’t beat a straight talking vet. Thank goodness it was only ‘Bloody dog’ and nothing worse. ‘Bloody Dog’ describes a short spell of diahorrea that has probably been caused by something the dogs ate or sniffed at, maybe a dead bird, slug or snail.

We’ll never know but whatever it was that she chewed on, she made a good recovery and is back on her feet sniffing again. Unlike another member of the family.

This morning I picked up the phone to hear my sister’s voice. “Bloody dog” she moaned by coincidence. Had she heard about my sick little dog over in the UK? “No. Dad’s dog”, he loves that dog, please don’t let her be ill. “Dad’s got cancer” she said. The C word, WHAM! POW! It came from nowhere and hit me right in the stomach. Bloody cancer.

“Dad’s got CANCER?” I said with disbelief. “Yes. A tumour. They’re taking it out at the end of the month.

“He wants me to mind the bloody dog while he goes into hospital,” she went on. She likes cats. She hates dogs. This is the problem with living away from home. You can’t just pop round to look after your Dad or his dog.

Dad is from a generation who do not like to trouble anyone. He had kept the information to himself for a month before telling my sister. But when you hear the word ‘cancer’, you want the facts. The facts mean that you can deal with it. “All I know is that it is a tumour and they are removing it at the end of April”. The idea of Dad sitting alone, waiting for a month to pass, fills my heart with sadness.

“Hi Dad” I tried to sound my usual chirpy self later on the phone. “How’s the dog?” He adores that dog. She has given him eighteen months of pure joy. That dog also walks ten miles a day with Dad following as fast as he can behind her. Not easy for a 75-year-old man with one leg two inches shorter than the other. Still, he hobbles along after her.

Dad updated me. For twenty minutes I listened to every detail of her typical day. What she eats, how she sleeps and how she pines for him whenever he leaves the house. He loves that dog. Then I asked him about his health.

“I’ve got cancer,” he said. I was full of questions that he couldn’t answer. I trained as a nurse many moons ago and have enough knowledge to know what should happen from here on. How big was the tumour, what stage was it at, what treatment would he need after surgery, how long would he be in hospital? I gently asked him everything. He was vague in his responses.

The last thing that I wanted to do was to cause him any stress so I took it upon myself to simply phone his GP. She would fill me in, I remember when my mother was sick with the same horrible disease twenty years ago, and the GP had been so quick to keep us updated. But how it has all changed.

“I am afraid that your father’s GP cannot speak to you” was the depressing response that I got from the receptionist at the end of the phone. The law in the UK has changed. As next of kin, you have no legal right to discuss your loved one (unless your loved one has lost their mental faculties).

Whether you are the spouse, daughter or son, it does not matter. The doctor, cannot legally discuss anything with you any more. I tried a different approach. I explained to the receptionist that I live in Ireland, that all I needed to know was the diagnosis and what to expect from here, so that we, his children, who all live away from home, could make plans for his after care.

“As I said, Mrs Morris, the doctor cannot discuss your father’s case with you”. I left a message for the GP, asking her if, on this occasion, she might speak to me as an act of kindness. She didn’t because if she did be breaking the law. It’s black and white.

So the future is unclear. All we can do is to wait for the operation date and see where we go from there. Dad will continue not to make a fuss. He won’t ask the doctors any questions and we can’t ask the doctors any questions either.

I am going over to the UK the week after his surgery. I’ll walk the dog and make him nice dinners. Thankfully Dad went to the GP when he got the very first symptom. From here on all we can do is hope that the tumour is small and everything will be simple.

Anything more than that will be too much to bear. I cannot imagine a situation worse than Dad being seriously ill in hospital and not being able to speak to his doctors. The law has robbed us of a line of communication with the medical professionals.

If only my father’s GP was as open and straight talking as my vet. I am his daughter. I want to know what’s going on because I care. But the new law in Britain means that we only know as much as he does and he doesn’t ask questions because he doesn’t want to make a fuss.

Common sense has been thrown out of the window.