Pre-flight turbulance

Bags are packed and stationed by the door. I’m ready to go home. Except . . . this morning I received a call from Air Canada reservations, letting me know I needed medical clearance from my doctor otherwise I wouldn’t be allowed to board the plane.

Big sigh.

When I asked why they hadn’t notified me earlier, she said they only realized the requirement today while reviewing reservations. When asking why they didn’t inform me two weeks ago when I’d originally arranged for special assistance and told them about the chemotherapy – she didn’t have a good reason.

So, here’s what went down.

1. Phone call from Air Canada saying get the letter, or don’t get on the plane.

2. Panic attack.

3. Call my doctor’s secretary, who was actually helpful (probably because I was swallowing back tears), and let her know about the situation. At the time my oncologist still hadn’t arrived to work, but her tone suggested they would get things sorted.

4. Call back Air Canada and give them my doctor’s fax number and contact details.

5. Wait an hour.

6. Call secretary and check if they’re received the fax. “Yes, we received it. The doctor has filled it out and I’ll be faxing it back soon.”

7. Wait another hour.

8. Call Air Canada to confirm they have received the fax. “We have the fax; we’ll call you before six pm to let you know.”

Let me know . . .

AH! Bugger this game of nerves. They’ll let me know by six pm if I’m allowed to fly home. As Zsolt would say, ‘now that’s something.’

Therefore: let’s envision the happy Air Canada Reservation employees sipping on their warm cups of tea and eating scrumptious muffins. It’s a lovely day in the office, and oh look here – a medical clearance form for a woman in chemotherapy. La la la, happy thoughts with a stamp of approval! Let’s be nice and send her home. Yay!

Good thoughts and crossed fingers. That’s what I need at this moment.

I’ll save my outrage for later.


Now we are rolling! Thirteen down and three left to go.

BAM: appointment made with Canadian oncologist

BAM: ticket bought for flight home

BAM: Christmas presents under the tree

BAM: Air Canada troubles sorted

In the end it was my Dad who called back Air Canada. That’s not to say I couldn’t do it – but if I had called the UK office I would have gotten the same woman (I always get her) and would have felt the same stress. My dad instead called the Canadian customer service line and received a basket of apologies; the representative said that they shouldn’t be asking ‘why, why, why’ when a customer requests a wheelchair. Like I said before, the fact that we even ask ought to be enough.

Honestly, Air Canada has been a helpful company in the past, which is exactly why I had expected better treatment. When my mom needed to extend her compassion ticket to stay for my first chemo session, they went out of their way to help.

When I arrive at the airport, I’ll ask about a ‘meet and assist’, which means someone will come along to help me get through the airport (UK lady didn’t mention that!). It’s booked and ready to go. So Dad totally gets a gold star for helping smooth things out.

The snow is still on the ground. Chemo went well – I had my treatment yesterday instead of today. We arrived for a blood test, and because so many people had cancelled the lead nurse suggested I stay on for chemo as well. Once my blood results were returned (and my chemotherapy drugs released) I was taken to a spare room; this place was empty except for one other woman. It was such a quiet chemo room. The nurses flitted in and out, hooking me up to the machine, starting the drip, giving the anti-sickness, and finally attaching the chemotherapy. It took an hour longer than expected – Zsolt chased after our booked taxi as it drove away (not really, but it did drive away despite his arriving on time . . . taxi competition was fierce!). But the nurses were understaffed and I was tucked away in a deserted room; it was a wonder they remembered me at all!

Yesterday was chemo as usual, no surprises or interesting stories. The highlight of my treatment was the nurse popping round to change my drip and getting a shock when I appeared from beneath a pile of jackets on my chair. So that was a laugh, but otherwise it was totally uneventful.

Today Zsolt and I are hiding in the apartment. We’ve been watching cars pass by and seeing how they manage the ice. England and ice do not mix.

Still tired, still recovering, and so I cannot write anything interesting. This happens time to time.

Three left, baby! Thanks goodness for that.

Oh! Next week I have my radiotherapy consultation. That’ll certainly be something to write about.

Customer service

Hmm, I just called up Air Canada to arrange wheelchair assistance through the airport.

First, I must admit – it feels strange asking for a wheelchair. Wheelchairs should be for people who are really sick, or much older, or unable to WALK. I’m a 28 year old woman and I can walk . . . I just can’t walk for very long. My legs start feeling thick, I get tipsy (literally tipping over), and of course there’s fatigue.

I can understand someone’s surprise at my needing a wheelchair. But what I do not understand is being made to feel like an idiot for asking.

Calling the UK Air Canada customer service line today, I requested a wheelchair. The conversation went something like this (following the conversation about my reservation number, which was difficult in itself but quite possibly my fault):

Me: When I fly on the 14th, I’ll have just finished chemotherapy and will be really exhausted. Is there any kind of assistance I could have through the airport?

Lady: What kind of assistance do you want?

Me: Maybe a wheelchair or something?

Lady: Oh, wheelchair assistance.

I think the idea clicked into her head here. Before she wasn’t certain where to place me.

Lady: Is there any medical reason you need a wheelchair?

Me: I’ll have just finished chemotherapy and will be exhausted. I can walk a little, but not for long.

Lady: But is there any medical reason?

This is where I start to feel like an idiot.

Me: I’ll just have finished chemotherapy. I’ll be exhausted.

Lady: So you’ll need a wheelchair because you’ll be exhausted.

What is going on here? How many times do I need to say ‘chemotherapy’ and ‘exhausted’? Thinking about this now, I probably should have said: ‘I’m in the middle of chemotherapy’ – but totally forgot that fact during our conversation. But regardless, to have just finished chemotherapy and to be in the middle is essentially the same, because the effects are still felt a week or two (or more) after treatment.

Lady: I’ll put in a booking— sorry, a request for a wheelchair.

Me: (in my head: a request?) So I won’t know till I arrive if I have assistance?

Lady: That’s right.

At this point I want to cry, and don’t stand up for myself. Instead I say ‘fine’ because I feel like such an ass for even having asked.

Isn’t that crazy? Being challenged really throws me off; I totally lose my train of thought and can only say, ‘yeah, okay, fine’ like a stupid lemming. Mind you, if Zsolt is being challenged and asks for my help – no problem, I can tackle that issue. I’m a tough woman in other people’s battles. Not so great with my own.

Essentially, because I didn’t receive any sympathy from the Air Canada woman, I didn’t know how to handle myself. She treated my request like a form to be filled, which isn’t horrible, but at the same time – I’m not a form, I’m a person. My medical reason (apart from having been stated four times) goes beyond ‘exhaustion and chemotherapy’  – it extends to the fact that I need help, and I need it badly enough to ask.

Who asks for a wheelchair unless they need the bloody chair?

But she’ll put in a request.

Bah! It pissed me off enough to write, and maybe it’ll piss me off enough to call back later, when I feel less sorry for my passive self.

Though honestly, I had expected better.