I returned to the Millbrook Suite this week. It sounds almost glamorous and the uninitiated might believe it’s an opulent spa hotel somewhere balmy, exclusive and ridiculously overpriced. It’s true Millbrook welcomes an exclusive clientele and some eye-wateringly expensive activities occur there. There are few places in the world where one treatment costs between £2000 and £30,000 plus specialist staff and equipment (equally essential).
For all the things Milbrook Suite is – friendly, supportive, exclusive – it isn’t a haunt for celebrity-style pampering, the kind I’m told you find at luxury beach resorts. The staff provide an exemplary service and the treatments come in costly courses of between 6 and 12 sessions, that’s where comparisons with swanky hotels end. Fortunately service is included and visitors don’t pay, at least not directly, which is good because most of us couldn’t afford it… But what price do you put on the countless lives passing through Milbrook on their way to treating or managing cancer?
I’m one of them and on the treatment front so far so good, the £150,000+ looks like money well spent. Dr C is happy with progress, all is as it should be except joint issues that continue to perplex us both. More drugs or further investigations were briefly mentioned however I can’t recall a case of someone dying from joint pain. I told Dr C I’ll put up with it, unless he knows otherwise. He scratched his head turning his hair into a small replica of the Sagrada Familia then laughed and said he wasn’t aware that happened terribly often. So we’re avoiding further medical interventions to counteract the side effects of previous medical interventions. In my view there are always consequences.
There were 7 more lives in the waiting room this week. Some are getting better, some are forced to increase their efforts to overthrow the murderous stalker within. Millbrook Suite might be considered depressing because everyone attends knowing they have no real choice. Do nothing isn’t an option yet for some the medical staff reach a point where treatment stops working and they can offer nothing more. A man from my chemo days had lung mets confirmed; we talked about it while waiting to see Dr C. He laughed and said at least he’ll get some value from all the tax he’s paid – he thinks five years is achievable (they give him 12 months). I agreed and secretly asked whatever higher authority might be listening to please give him at least five more years because in the grand scheme of things it isn’t so much to ask. This is the reality of Millbrook. Complete strangers are thrown together and forced to confront mortality whilst accepting their bodies are no longer a safe place to reside. They laugh in the darkest moments. I’ve never quite belonged anywhere because my experience of life has been far from straightforward. It made me an anomaly and awkward or pitying questions always came up – in short, how do I cope with so few happily ever afters? I gave up asking why (the deaths and disappointments kept happening) a long time ago because there’s no other way to survive and remain sane. I find I fit in a little better at Millbrook where none of the lives are straightforward. It’s a strange place to call home and definitely wouldn’t have been my first choice but at least I’m not a curiosity there!