Routine, same as last month, same as six months of the same drug last year. Hooked up by cannula to the dripping chemotherapy drug, I sat back to relax, nibble on some water biscuits, and wonder how to entertain myself for the next couple of hours. Ho hum.

The first water biscuit was nice, but the second had a peppery taste. It made pins and needles on my tongue, and they hurt. Did I say pepper? This was the heat of raw chili. No, red hot coals. I saw a nurse across the room and waved at her, fanning my mouth. Then straight away my hands were on fire. As I sat forward with wild eyes, frantically shaking my burning hands, a nurse came over as another called "turn it off!". By that stage my feet were on fire too, I felt disoriented, and the world around me had changed.

For the next little while I was in a room full of fantasy characters doing strange things to me.

The Feng Shui Consultant

In a single swift movement, The Feng Shui Consultant reclined my chair until it was a bed, and removed every loose object, all my possessions including the glasses I was wearing, to the wall behind me.

The Calligrapher

The Calligrapher was in animated conversation with someone about the correct spelling of my name and my date of birth. I think it was The Drug Pusher.

The Drug Pusher

As their conversation trailed off, I felt confusion overwhelm my brain. There were needles where there had been no needles. I could not see anything but was unable to tell whether or not my eyelids were shut, and I was very puzzled about the oxygen mask that had been installed on my face when my glasses were removed. What's the connection? Was it supposed to help me see? I couldn't quite put my finger on the meaning of this swap, but knew that there was some simple explanation not far from reach.

The Meditation Master

A peripatetic Meditation Master wandered into the room and decided to stay a while, constantly inviting me to "breathe... breathe... breathe..."

The Dutch Bingo Caller

The Dutch Bingo Caller did a wonderful job of calling two alternative sets of bingo numbers at once. I knew she was Dutch, because she used their word for "or" which is "over". It was kind of her to sit right up close to me throughout, so that if I couldn't play bingo myself, at least I could follow both games.

The Mischievous Forces

How some Mischievous Forces became inserted into my body I cannot be sure, but they wanted out. My stomach heaved so violently I felt half turned inside out.

Breathing didn't work any more. There were clear airways and desperate gaping lungs, but no way to suck it in. I'd do what you do, but get only a teaspoon of air, or none at all. Still the Meditation Master called for mindfulness of breathing.

The confusion made it difficult to tell where all the pains and strangeness were located, but a beautiful solution to everything was to let myself be sucked into a deep beckoning sleep. Not so easy. As I sank with increasing speed into the welcoming extreme darkness, a voice cracked through the relaxation.

The Sports Trainer

With a group of those sickeningly healthy and well trained individuals, The Sports Trainer and her bouncy little group were way ahead, taunting me to keep up. "Stay with us! Stay with us!" she repeated until the whole black sinking thing was spoiled. When she finally stopped I relaxed again, but oh no, she caught me out and yelled again. You can't say no to these people!

The Cloned Spies

I peered out of my best slit of eyelids, and saw the chests of three men, all alike. They must be clones. But why were they lined up looking at me? Spies! They're spies! Stamped on their shirt pockets was the encoded version of their job title, "ICU".

The Sentient Bed

Having done all that could be done to my body, forces now concentrated on my bed. First it was a gentle, then a firmer tapping against my legs. Then the bum, back, and elbows all came into play. A second later my body was flying up off the bed, flapping like a fish. The rhythm livened into a full Indian tala performance in which my whole body took a part. When I pressed one arm firmly against the arm rest to stop its movement, the other arm flew into a cadenza of its own. Meanwhile the bed had been replaced with a large block of ice, and I realised I wasn't escaping from this ice bed any time soon.

The Dutch Bingo Caller was going hell for leather. "70 over 50... 65 over 40... 60 over 35" and there she stopped. Game over, I guess.

The characters stopped talking or went away, I couldn't tell which. The tala slowed down and subdued only very gradually, even though the bed was starting to thaw. I opened my eye slits and saw no spies. I was alone, flapping gently against the cold rock bed.

The Human

As I drifted off to sleep, I heard the voice of a human, calling me "she" like an old friend, commenting on the scary colour my face had been and how much it had improved since then. Roused from sleep some time later, I was slid into a wheelchair headed for a comfy bed in a ward. The Human was there again, stroking my precious thinning hair back into place and securing its hair combs, as we wheeled down the hallway.

Of course, it wasn't time yet.

There are still 1180 hours.