To the strangers who removed my breasts last week, thank you. Thank you for doing the job you do, which may well lead to me being alive for longer; to me spending more days and weeks and years with my family. Thank you to the two surgeons who worked side by side to cut the time of my operation in half, removing and then reconstructing one breast each. Thank you to the anaesthetist who watched over me, making sure I stayed alive but unconscious. Thank you to the anaesthetist's assistant, for being kind and holding my hand as I drifted off to sleep.
But it doesn't stop there, does it? My thanks to the NHS shouldn't only be extended to the people who were in that room while the surgery took place. I'd also like to thank the nurse who rubbed my back while I vomited in reaction to the anaesthesia after coming round. And the nurse who found my toothbrush in my suitcase and held a cardboard bowl for me so I could clean my teeth without moving too much. And the nurse who washed my back while I sat on a chair in front of the sink the following morning, too weak to do it myself.
I'd like to thank the men and women who came to take my food orders, for their patience when I couldn't even concentrate for long enough to read a menu. The cleaner who told me not to worry about lifting my feet when she swept the floor beside my hospital bed. I don't know whether she knew that it had taken me a long time to get out of bed that morning and I didn't really have any energy left, or whether it's just her policy to sweep around people. Either way, it meant a lot to me.
I'd like to thank the nurses who brought me pain relief and checked my blood pressure and temperature and pulse. Who looked at my drains and my wounds and made sure I was healing the way I should have been. I'd like to thank everyone who told me their name and asked mine. And never made me feel like a burden, or a pain, or anything less than a woman they were happy to meet and to care for.
This is the third surgery I've had on the NHS in the past year, and I am healthier and stronger as a result. It's possible that I'm alive as a result. So I'd like to thank the politicians who have breathed life into the NHS over the years so that it could, in turn, breathe life into me and so many others.
I don't know how much longer we'll have it, and I'm angry and sad that my children and their children might not be afforded the care I've been lucky enough to take for granted all my life. But for now, I am simply grateful. That I have lived in a time in which I was considered worthy of being saved, and taken care of, and treated with kindness. Not because I had enough money, but because I was a person.