Oxford broadcasting legend and the man behind Headington's Shark House, Bill Heine continues his account of his ongoing battle with leukaemia

The story so far: I’ve been diagnosed with leukaemia and given 8 to 14 months to live. This is a tight timeline to fight not only cancer but the added infections that pop up along the way. So my consultant team at the hospital asked a group of nurses and paramedics to treat me in my own bed for a week to give me extended intravenous drip treatments after my day on the wards

THE 'Hospital at Home' team used an ironing board to prepare the needles and medications while I created a makeshift pallet for myself. Then we scoured the ceiling beams to find a hook to hang a bag of antibiotics.

A hand-carved white elephant wooden marionette I brought back from Bangkok 25 years ago did the trick. We shook off the dust and hoisted the bag to allow the drip-feed tube to fall into my lap and then clamped it into a semi permanent tube I’ve been living with stretching from my elbow to just above my heart.

It was all Heath Robinson and a bit ‘over the top’ but it worked because of the intimate, caring relationship between nurse and patient.

In the 45 minutes when the antibiotics dripped into my body the carers started another drip feed operation. They sat down next to me and got out their questionnaires to pull out of me a verbal picture of my health

It’s hard to refuse this especially since the nurses have gone to so much trouble. Why not cooperate with them on their homework?

I know they mean well and want to get a rounded picture of the patient, but why do these pointed questions leave a slightly sinister atmosphere hanging around afterwards? The nurses always smile when they go through this litany.

“Can you get out of bed by yourself with no assistance?” Well, yes, you’ve just seen me do close to a hand stand to get into this position on the mattress.

“Is your skin still moist and can you walk up the stairs without becoming dizzy or breathless and can you use a toilet unaided?”

These questions leave me with some picture they expect me to walk into in the future – a desiccated man with sunken cheeks emphasizing the hollow rings of my eyes, collapsed on the staircase and clutching the banister while trying to retrieve a roll of toilet paper from the upstairs airing cupboard.

The next time anyone in a white or blue hospital coat with soft, doe-like, sensitive eyes puts a hand out to touch me on the arm or shoulder and asks in a very concerned voice, after taking a deep sigh – ‘How are you? How are you feeling? – I may scream. At the very least I will think of joining a gym. That way I could give them the amount of weight I’m bench pressing each day this week so they could compare that figure with the tally for last week and make up their own minds about their key question ‘How are you feeling?’

The one thin thread that keeps me vaguely interested in these questions is that at least they have the merit of being clear. Then on the last day of my treatment the medical team waived that advantage ‘good bye’

A nurse with no great interest in her final question asked me “Are you a message in a bottle?”, and she didn’t even blink when I asked her to repeat it.

She caught me off guard, “Maybe, but what exactly do you mean?”

She explained in very precise terms the bottle is a green bottle with a purple paper in it where the patient is supposed to write instructions about how the medical people should treat him or her if they have an emergency and do not want to be resuscitated.

I asked if this was telescoping an important decision about the recovery process? After all I haven’t had a heart attack or a stroke yet, or been rushed to hospital in an ambulance chocking on my own blood.

Yesterday I was swimming 50 lengths in my local public pool and today I’m being asked when I want to ‘go under’ for the last time. She said she could give me more time to consider the question.

I thanked her and laid back to consider my little green bottle and purple paper and how easy it is for them to float just out of reach over the top.