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‘I want an interview. I will pay you for it as a patient.’

‘Very well, then.’

I imagine that the surgeon was intrigued to know what sort of a woman this was. As she was waiting on a bench in the gloomy corridor, he came out of his room, walked past, looked at her, and then came back.

‘I don’t believe an operation is the right thing in this case,’ she said.

You are wasting valuable time.’

‘I’m sorry. I realise you are busy.’

‘I mean the patient’s time.’

‘I want the opinion of another physician.’

‘You are destroying his only chance of living by delaying the operation.’

‘He is so ill, the shock of the operation would kill him.’ ‘Many people live with only one lung.’

‘His lungs are in such a septic state that he is bound to die if you cut into them. I refuse to consent to the operation.’

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The surgeon then spoke of certain neck symptoms, and said he would examine me again. I suppose that he, like me, had never met a woman like Sheila – someone who would carry the responsibility of refusing to allow an operation against the overwhelming weight of medical opinion.

As far as I was concerned, things moved slowly, and in somewhat of a dreary blur. Hospital routine; dreadful nights, lying for hour after hour, unable to sleep; sometimes choking and gasping for breath; not allowed to switch on a light, because it would wake up other patients in the ward. Patients coming in, having a lung removed, suffering bravely, leaving. Every day the surgeon on his rounds poked my neck with his finger as if to see if I was ripe for the knife. The physician’s report was the same as before. The laboratory report on the lung tissue came in. The surgeon told me about it.

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